FOX Soccer Exclusive
Arsenal shells out big bucks for Ozil
“I feel really good at Real Madrid,” said Mesut Ozil less than a week ago. “I have a contract here until 2016. I feel very good here and get on really well with my teammates. I want success here. There has been a lot written in the media, talk of some other options, but I am staying with Real Madrid.”
Those words were spoken as Ozil was appearing at a sponsors’ event at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu just last Wednesday.
There was a larger than usual number of journalists present that morning, as rumors then swirling around the Spanish capital claimed Ozil was considering leaving Madrid having been substituted early in both the team’s opening two Primera Division matches.
There were also reports that the La Liga giants had rejected an attempt by Ozil’s father and agent to lift the player’s annual wage from €5 million to €8 million a year. And with Gareth Bale all set to arrive in Madrid from Tottenham, the feeling was that a move might just happen.
But Ozil was blunt and to the point in his comments. He had no intention of leaving. That was that.
Or so it seemed.
At Saturday’s regular pregame press conference Blancos coach Carlo Ancelotti suggested that Ozil would have to get used to sitting on the bench this season. Then during Sunday’s Primera Division clash with Athletic Bilbao, the playmaker was an unused sub, watching from the sidelines as 20-year-old and €30 million starlet Isco played in his position and scored twice in a 3-1 win.
German midfielder Mesut Ozil became a surplus to requirements at Real Madrid this summer. (Image: Denis Doyle/Getty Images).
Suddenly the transfer rumors were sweeping back again, and this time with a vengeance. Both Manchester United and Arsenal were mentioned in early reports that afternoon, and by Sunday night the Gunners had taken pole position.
On Monday morning as Bale was carrying out his medical in Madrid, Ozil was having his fitness checked by Arsenal representatives in Germany, where he was on international duty.
The move was then confirmed -- at £42.5m -- by the London club late Monday evening. Ozil will meet up with his new clubmates once the international break ends, and could make his debut at home to Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium on Sept. 14.
dear fans of real madrid, thank you very much for three wonderful years with all of you. my time at real madrid... http://t.co/waVrnHbuDL— Mesut Özil (@MesutOzil1088) September 2, 2013
Signing of the summer! Easily! Fantastic player, plays the 'Arsenal way'. Welcome @MesutOzil1088 absolutely buzzing!— Jack Wilshere (@JackWilshere) September 2, 2013
They say a week is a long time in soccer, especially towards the end of the transfer window, but even by those standards this was a whirlwind turnaround.
The feeling around Madrid is that club president Florentino Perez, having committed to a €100 million plus package to bring Bale to the Santiago Bernabeu, needed to raise some funds elsewhere. Angel di Maria had been earmarked to go, but the Argentine winger refused a move to Tottenham. Arsenal came with a huge offer for a player who was no longer an automatic choice and Perez bit. Ozil will now get the pay-rise he was after.
Everyone should in theory then should be happy. But it is not quite so simple. Ozil was a very popular player at the Bernabeu, where many fans and pundits regarded him as Madrid’s most naturally talented attacker -- even above Cristiano Ronaldo. Stats show that the former Werder Bremen man created more chances than any other player in Europe’s five top league’s last season, and that he has provided the most assists of anyone, at any club, over the last three campaigns.
Hence some fans attending Bale’s presentation at Monday lunchtime made a last -- desperate -- attempt to change Perez’ mind by chanting “Ozil is not for sale” towards the Madrid chief.
It was already too late. A tweet from ‘Mad Madridista’ Tomas Roncero of Madrid-supporting daily AS, sent during Bale's press conference, showed the Bernabeu club's mind was made up.
“Mesut is going to Arsenal,” Roncero spun. “A pity. We will miss him. But they tell me that the will to leave was his own. Against this nothing can be done.”
Thereby the message was put out that Madrid had wanted to keep Ozil, but he had pushed the move through.
Meanwhile, Arsenal fans -- who all summer long have been exhorting Arsene Wenger to spend some bloody money -- were celebrating the arrival of a truly world class attacking talent.
Ozil is the real deal -- the main playmaker for Germany, among the favorites for next summer's World Cup. He looks ideal for Wenger's passing-based style, and should blend very well with Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott in a secondary attacking line of three.
Sometimes things can just click into place; Perez needed to balance the books.;Wenger wanted a big name signing; Ozil was after a pay-rise. And the summer transfer window had a final unexpected twist in the tale.