The Assist King has left the building when Mesut Ozil joins the youth club Fenerbahce after agreeing to terminate his Arsenal deal within six months.
It shouldn't be like that; In fact, Arsenal fans once hoped he would stay forever. Ozil's arrival from Real Madrid in September 2013 for £ 42.4million and his later £ 350,000-a-week stay at the club, signed five years later, were heralded as milestones for the Gunners to see to return to previous successes.
At first, Ozil had a unifying effect on a fan base whose anger under Arsene Wenger was only just beginning. But over time, the midfielder became the most polarizing figure in a club that developed dramatically behind the scenes as the game's elite clubs faded on the horizon.
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In the end, Ozil, who was announced as the new Dennis Bergkamp, was as peripheral as the Barcelona lender Denis Suarez. His groundbreaking contract went from being a letter of intent for a club near the top to a crippling burden on a team in dire need of repair. Ozil became an outcast encrusted with diamonds; a thick slice of Black Forest cakes in a club on a diet.
Ozil still has wild support on social media. Part of the reason Arsenal offered him such a high wage in the first place was because of his marketing prowess and his online appeal. At the time of writing, Arsenal has 16.9 million Twitter followers. Ozil stands at 25.8 m. On Instagram, the Gunners boast 18.8 m; Ozil is 23.5 m. But instead of a symbiotic, mutually beneficial relationship, Ozil increasingly resorted to social media to communicate his pariah status when Arsenal tried to sever ties with a player who was once a talisman was a new era, but is now a relic of past mistakes.
Each side blames the other for how this played out, but how did that come about?
Mesut Ozil has been banned from the squads for both the Premier League and the Europa League this season. Richard Heathcote / Getty Images
Ozil has been an emotional issue since joining Arsenal 7½ years ago and it's hard to underestimate how exciting his arrival was.
More than one transfer was billed. A year earlier, in 2012, Arsenal had sold Robin van Persie to Manchester United. This was the latest in a long line of talents who were either approaching or at the peak of their careers and who would fulfill that promise elsewhere. Van Persie would win the Golden Shoe with 26 goals and lead United to the Premier League title from Sir Alex Ferguson last season. Once bitter opponent, Wenger gave Ferguson, his longtime rival, the missing piece of his puzzle.
Years of frugality resulting from the self-funded move from Highbury to Emirates Stadium made it impossible for Arsenal to survive at the high end of the transfer market, particularly given the billions from Manchester City that followed Chelsea on their swift path to success through lavish spending. The Arsenal trophy drought dates back to 2005 and weighs heavier on Wenger's shoulders every year. With the landing of Ozil, who had agreed to move on September 2, 2013, Arsenal finally took over. Additionally, they signed a real star for Real Madrid and Germany – a playmaker who will soon be 25 years old with the pedigree of adding real power to Wenger's aesthetic approach.
In a near perfect distillation of the transition that the Gunners made, they loaned goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano for a season from Palermo that day, which is more like a transfer window in which they also agreed terms with 20 years old French striker Yaya Sanogo and the newly signed midfielder Mathieu Flamini. However, when the deadline ran out, Arsenal broke their transfer record nearly three times, paying £ 42.4million for Ozil. He became the third most expensive addition in British football.
Earlier this summer, then-general manager Ivan Gazidis told an Arsenal fan forum that "we are starting to see our financial firepower escalate," and Ozil's arrival was evidence that rhetoric could be used.
Except that Gazidis had originally gone to Madrid to inquire about the signing of Angel Di Maria. A deal for Ozil only came about as a possibility when manager Carlo Ancelotti told the German international he wouldn't be a guaranteed regular and with Wenger, a longtime admirer, Arsenal moved in to pounce, allegedly much to Cristiano Ronaldo's annoyance .
Ozil's move in 2013 was heralded as an important letter of intent. Stuart MacFarlane / Arsenal FC via Getty Images
Ozil settles down but Arsenal spends badly around him
Ronaldo's frustration with Ozil's exit from Madrid resulted from the loss of ammunition provided by a man named "Assist King". It took just 11 minutes after Ozil's Arsenal debut to score his first goal for Olivier Giroud. His first season ended with cutlery, the 2014 FA Cup. They would sign Barcelona striker Alexis Sanchez again this summer, another impressive coup for around £ 35 million, and keep the trophy a year later.
In 2015-16, Ozil reached new heights with a total of 19 assists – a gap on the records of Arsenal legend Thierry Henry (2002-03) and Kevin De Bruyne (2019-20) from Man City. According to Opta, Ozil has created 146 chances this season, 10 more than any other player since the records began almost 20 years ago. A breathtaking conclusion to win a group phase match of the Champions League against Ludogorets in early November, is still considered the best goal he has scored for the club to this day.
However, this season it may have gone wrong. Wenger stated in the summer of 2015 that his squad was good enough with no additions beyond veteran Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech. Arsenal would be the only team in Europe's top five leagues that wouldn't have signed an outfield (although they added Mohamed Elneny in January) but the Gunners finished second this season, 10 points behind shock champions Leicester City. Many of the established teams viewed Leicester's incredible title win as both a fairy tale and a missed opportunity for themselves, but perhaps no longer an Arsenal. Wenger later admitted his "regrets and guilt".
What followed was a series of missteps in the market.
The Gunners signed Granit Xhaka, Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Perez for around £ 86 million in the summer of 2016. Ozil ended the 2016/17 season with nine Premier League goals and eight assists, but the Gunners ended up outside the top 4 for the first time. Wenger's reign dates back to 1996.
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With this in mind, the team's two standout performers, Ozil and Sanchez, entered the final year of their contracts at the start of the 2017/18 season, and their relationship with the rest of the squad became complicated as negotiations progressed. Sources have told ESPN that Ozil and Sanchez have missed "club days" more than once – once a month, players would have to give up their time to fulfill the club's various commercial, media and marketing contracts. It goes without saying that the duo kept each other informed of their contract negotiations, knowing that their bargaining power was even greater together.
A deal to sell Sanchez to Manchester City collapsed in the summer window and the situation began to get toxic. Sanchez & # 39; field shape fell off a cliff and sources have told ESPN that he has stopped responding to internal emails from employees. Relations with Ozil have never deteriorated to the same extent and when Sanchez was allowed to join Manchester United in January 2018 – Henrikh Mkhitaryan came the other way in a rare "swap" between two top clubs – Arsenal realized they were needed issue another letter of intent.
The pressure to prevent another top player from leaving – a past they'd left behind – had reached critical levels. And so, on the day they broke their transfer record to sign Borussia Dortmund's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for around £ 56m, it was announced that Ozil had signed a £ 350,000-a-week deal, a contract extension that would end the The club's existing wages would destroy structure.
Sources have told ESPN that Aubameyang wanted to know if Ozil would stay before agreeing to join the club, and Ozil had also asked for advice that the club would quickly invest in the squad to get back into the Champions League after taking on striker Alexandre Lacazette from Lyon for £ 46.5m.
The speculations about Wenger's future reached fever. Ultimately, Gazidis decided that Ozil would be the central component of the team, no matter who was in charge, but things turned out differently.
ESPN FC's Ian Darke says on the ceiling of Arsenal after a draw with Crystal Palace.
Arsenal try to develop further, Ozil remains behind
The three key figures in Ozil's contract negotiations – Wenger, Gazidis and chief negotiator Dick Law – left the club at the end of 2018. Gazidis had tacitly started reducing Wenger's autonomy, appointing nine new department heads and hiring Sven Mislintat. Borussia Dortmund is leading the club's recruitment process. The appointment of manager Unai Emery was intended to bring fresh energy to a tired back room, restore a strong work ethic, and banish a culture of comfort that had permeated the locker room under Wenger, who, while passionate about Ozil but still had reservations against the huge wages he had received.
Ozil's sluggish style and intermittent shape made him an obvious target. Emery recognized his talent, but questioned his motivation. The new power brokers, which included former Barcelona manager Raul Sanllehi as head of football, viewed Ozil and his contract as a symbol of past generosity, and the strength of Emery's relationship with Ozil wavered.
There have been some memorable moments, especially when he donned the armband against Leicester on October 22, 2018 – a goal and assist that barely did justice to a great overall display. It was used frugally throughout the season, however, and Emery raised concerns about his fitness and commitment. Criticism that Ozil failed to deliver in the big games continued, especially after the 2019 Europa League final when he replaced teen Joe Willock and the Gunners lost 4-1 to Chelsea.
Arsenal tried to move Ozil this summer but couldn't find a club willing to take on his wages. Ozil's stance has been challenged again in certain areas, although there is conflicting information as to whether he acted out of mismanagement or out of arrogance. Sources have told ESPN that Ozil once turned up at the Colney club's training ground for treatment for an injury, only to be sent home after being told there were no treatment tables available.
Mikel Arteta believes Ozil's record at Arsenal will remain "undeniable" despite not playing this season.
"Football reasons" behind Ozil's exile or something else?
Emery's tenure fell apart – several leading players, not just Ozil, became disaffected – and he was fired in November 2019. Interim boss Freddie Ljungberg put Ozil back on his side, but quickly lost patience and quoted the moment he kicked his gloves in Luft after we were substituted for Manchester City to "take a stand" because "at Arsenal we don't behave like that ".
New signing Mikel Arteta started Ozil in his first 10 Premier League games as Gunners boss, albeit with modest earnings. Ozil's public criticism of China's treatment of the Uyghur Muslim population caused diplomatic problems for the club, but the importance of this criticism for its marginalization is overlooked as he still remained on the team. It wasn't until March 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown, when he refused to cut a salary with the majority of his teammates, that Ozil fell out of favor under Arteta.
The Spaniard has cited "football reasons" for leaving Ozil out, but regardless of the change in style of play, there have been many games where 20 minutes of Ozil would hardly have made matters worse. Arteta was central to convincing the squad to cut wages at a time when their counterparts in the Premier League were discussing deferrals. He intervened personally to negotiate with the players on behalf of the owner, but Ozil wanted more certainty about where the money was going. That stance deepened internal divisions, because if Ozil's contract was a symbol of bigger thinking, COVID-19 had hastened Arsenal's return to greater fiscal conservatism, laid off 55 non-gambling employees, reduced the scouting network, and even waived Sanllehi.
Sources told ESPN that it was personal for Arteta that Ozil would not heed his call for unity on the cut and that any chance for reconciliation between the two was gone. After that, they didn't talk much and exchanged simple courtesies when their paths crossed on the training ground. Ozil continued to train with the first team and gave advice and sportswear from his M10 brand to several younger team members.
Arteta consequently left him out of his Premier League and Europa League squads when the club looked for an exit strategy. Ozil remained stranded in 254 missions, scored 44 goals and registered 77 assists. When it became clear that his situation at Emirates Stadium was not going to change this month, Ozil's camp, the longstanding interest of Fenerbahce and the MLS team D.C. United to investigate. Live tweets about Arsenal games and the offer to pay club mascot Gunnersaurus's wages could only support him for so long.
In the end, Ozil's Turkish roots (his grandparents immigrated to Germany from Turkey) and real affinity with Fenerbahce won the day. The biggest financial barrier was removed when Arsenal agreed to pay the bulk of the £ 7million owed for the remainder of their contract.
Few players in the game have the technical skills of Ozil. He provided many moments of pure joy in an Arsenal jersey, memories that shouldn't be diminished by his problems of the past few days. But it's impossible to evade lingering regrets on all sides that Ozil is leaving Arsenal with a mixed legacy. In the case of a player known for his assists, the bottom line is that neither party has done enough to help the other.