Project: Özil

I cannot shake Mesut Özil. Although I dare say I try quite hard to. He won’t go away. And as if by some sort of conspiracy from the gods above he is now possibly moving to Manchester. To play for my team!

What follows is based on the speculation and rumors coming out of Arsenal and Özil’s circle stating that Manchester United will sign the twenty nine year old via the Bosman Ruling. I am by no means declaring that this is going to happen and I certainly do not even remotely trust any media story (let alone Mesut’s mate down the chippy chatting about the German’s unhappiness in north London). BUT, it is a bona fide option flirting with reality so we must tackle it. 

A celebratory sight seen so infrequently these days

It is clear Mesut Özil is not enjoying himself at Arsenal. I have spoken about this earlier this season and I have mentioned to anyone with ears that he has been playing as if truly downtrodden for well over a year. So far this season he has recorded zero goals and zero assists. This from a man who notched a record nineteen assists in 2014-15 for the Gunners and seventeen assists in 2011-12 for Real Madrid as the Galacticos won La Liga. Özil is world class on his day. Please ask any German breathing. He scores at a clip once every four matches for Germany. He has more goals (22) for Die Mannschaft (and a World Cup 2014 winners medal to go with his third place medal from 2010) from 86 caps than he does for Real Madrid (105 appearances and 19 goals). He has only one more goal (23 in total) for Arsenal than when on international duty, despite appearing thirty eight more times in red and white. 

The major fault in Özil is his mental strength. It is his flaw. He plays and behaves as his emotions take him. He stars and is comfortable when his manager treats him well and the fans are on his side. The positive attention is necessary for him. Özil soared at Real Madrid under Jose Mourinho. Mourinho catered to him and Özil flourished alongside other footballing behemoths on that squad. There was mutual respect and admiration, circumstances which cannot be overstated. He played freely in the middle surrounded by Kaká, Xabi Alonso and Ángel di María as well as behind Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuaín. Mourinho even likened him to the immortal deity Zinedine Zidane. A compliment that did not by any means seem out of place at the time. And after it was said and done, Ronaldo was left cross, questioning the club’s decision to let Özil leave as his main goal creator was now gone. 

As we all know, Mourinho now resides in Manchester (let’s be real, he almost for sure lives in Cheshire AM I RIGHT?!? #banter). United have the capacity to pay Özil what Arsenal surely are hesitating to. His contract expires at the end of this season, which leaves Arsenal in quite the sticky predicament. Under the Bosman Ruling (if anyone ever wants to nerd out about Belgian Jean-Marc Bosman and the massive repercussions and consequences of this rule, I am available 24/7/365), Mesut can sign for a new team in the European Union as soon as six months remain on his contract with his current club receiving no fee whatsoever. Arsenal will not have a say in his move and Özil is free to choose whichever team wants him. The oddity of this specific scenario would be that he would play for Arsenal for the second half of the season knowing full well he is on his way to an arch rival. 

Happier times for the German star.

Arsenal have bungled this. Simple and plain. And by “this” I am referring to EVERYTHING. They should have sold high (or as high as possible) this past summer. As I stated months ago, it is possible they attempted to offload Özil with no appropriate valuations met so they kept him in hopes of the attacking midfielder finding his form and signing a new deal. It is laughable that a club as large as Arsenal now find themselves with a miserable superstar (we aren’t even going to get into the Alexis Sánchez debate right now) holding all of the leverage. Özil is demanding a monstrous pay packet (an alleged absurd £350,000/week) and if Arsenal do not agree then he leaves for free to a rival. From the team’s perspective now, it would be foolish to extend Özil’s contract. He is historically in football terms towards the end of his most productive years. Arsenal need to move on, rebuild and focus on the future without all of these grumpy divas. There’s plenty hope in what’s next there and pouring immense sums into wages for an aging wantaway does not make a semblance of sense. They now must gamble that he never rediscovers his elite class and hope he doesn’t do what Robin van Persie did when he left Arsenal for United in 2012 and win the Red Devils the title.  

One option to consider: Arsenal could attempt to sell Mesut Özil in January. This would be their best hope at recouping any sort of money on a deal and will allow them to dictate to a degree where the player ends up (read: not at a direct enemy). The issue there is that interest will presumably be low (Inter have reportedly had a word) and teams will refuse to pay a number of any great consequence as he is twenty nine and would be free in the summer. Another problem, besides his ludicrous wage demands that will deter almost every side in the solar system, would be that if Özil is set on reuniting with Mourinho at United, he could disagree on personal terms with any club that has a fee accepted by Arsenal in the winter window. So, the decision is firmly in the hands of the German. 

And what exactly does Mesut Özil bring when he is in his finest fettle? If he settles and plays as he is capable, or once was, you will be welcomed by a man gliding through the middle of the pitch. His touch and technique are marvelous. He makes things happen. A creative who can exploit defences with pristine passes forward. He looks to engineer an attack first with the pace to be no stranger on the flank. Özil has the vision necessary to eviscerate back lines at will. He is genuinely unplayable in his full pomp. A number 10 point blank. For United, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan contributing inconsistent displays in the hole behind Romelu Lukaku, there is room for another. The added depth would be a luxury, but supported as the campaign on multiple League and Cup fronts wears on the players in early spring. The Özil of the last few seasons has; however, left me unconvinced that he can do a job. The risk of acquiring him on a free is certainly intriguing and one I am unopposed to. His per week wage demands are LOL worthy, but wholly manageable for a club of United’s stature (they will undoubtedly have ten more Asian and American sponsors come January). Most importantly, the potential upside of a World Cup winner gelling once again with a shrewd and successful manager is a mouth watering proposition of sorts. It has to be explored, at the very least, as a legitimate opportunity. 

Listen, it may all just be a bit of chatter. It may be a ploy by agents for a new contract. It may be true. At this point it is irrelevant. The facts remain that Arsenal have shambolically handled their summer transfer window, are currently flailing on the pitch and Mesut Özil is distinctly unhappy. Whatever happens next will play out in the next two months, but the only sure thing is that the man himself will tell everyone what to do. 

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