Mesut Ozil had it all at Real Madrid: the money, the prestige of playing for the world’s biggest club and the unblemished reputation as one of the world’s finest playmakers.
But, following the arrival of Gareth Bale from Real Madrid, Ozil began to feel a little uneasy. And when he started to suspect that his playing time would be limited as a direct result of the Wales international’s arrival at the Bernabeu, he agreed to move to Arsenal, who offered Los Blancos a cool £42.5m for the Germany international’s services.
Real Madrid would have been happy holding on to Ozil, even if Arsenal’s monster bid was more than a little tempting - particularly as they had just forked out a world-record £86m fee for Bale. But Ozil, who was probably feeling a little put out at the time, took the bold - and, because of time constraints, quick - decision to move to the Emirates Stadium.
It was a move that made a lot of sense at the time, though. Ozil respected Arsene Wenger, whose use of German impressed the attacking midfielder during a productive phone conversation; and, like many others, he held Arsenal in high regard because of their exploits in the first half of the 2000s and their entertaining style of football.
However, seven months down the line and Ozil must be having serious doubts - and possibly even regrets - about leaving Real Madrid for Arsenal.
In the last few weeks, the 25-year-old has suffered nothing but criticism from all quarters because of a supposed lack of effort on his behalf. Following last night’s 1-1 draw with Bayern Munich in the Champions League last 16 second leg, in which he was subbed off at half-time with a hamstring injury, he was even accused of stealing a living.
And it’s not just in England where people are questioning his mentality. Back in his home country, many are beginning to ask the question about whether Ozil even deserves his place in the Germany national team for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.
Such questions were never asked during his three-year spell at the Bernabeu. Ozil, in the eyes of most across Europe, was one of the dead-cert picks for every one of Joachim Low’s squads.
So, what exactly has caused Ozil’s status to go from hero to zero? To question his ability is nothing short of absurd: he has proved his quality on the biggest stages of international and club football over the past four years.
Perhaps he has lost motivation or his love for the game. After all, going from playing in front of 80,000 spectators every week alongside the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema and, more importantly, competing for the biggest trophies in club football, to playing for a club which last won a trophy almost a decade ago and cannot seem to rediscover their winning mentality, must be difficult.
But Ozil is a professional - and a consummate one at that. There must be more to it than a loss in motivation, right?
Some believe that Wenger’s current system fails to make the most of Ozil’s talents - and they might well have a point. Rather than being shifting to a wide role, Ozil should be playing behind a striker willing to make darting runs behind defences. Olivier Giroud often comes deep or lacks pace to spring the offside trap. Had Theo Walcott occupied the centre-forward role, Ozil would have had many more assists to his name this season.
Yes, it’s up to the player in question to show a little more effort and will-to-win during matches. But ultimately it’s Wenger’s job to motivate the player and to get the most out of him by deploying him in the right position alongside the right players.
And unless that happens - quickly - then the hugely-talented Ozil could live to regret his decision to leave the world’s most famous club for Arsenal last summer.
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