Mesut Ozil was a ‘blink and you’ll miss him’ type of player, and that’s how the news of his retirement feels.
The former Germany, Arsenal and Real Madrid midfielder announced his retirement from professional football on Wednesday. He does so as one of the greats, but also with a sense of unfulfilled potential, frustration almost.
Mesut Ozil was one of the biggest stars of the group of young German players who would go on to win the 2014 World Cup.
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He joined Real Madrid in 2010 and won a La Liga and a Copa del Rey in three years. Madrid’s purchase of Gareth Bale opened the door for Ozil’s transfer to, and eventually complicated relationship with Arsenal.
At the time, Arsenal fans were like love starved teenagers. Such was their lamentation that Arsenal never signed world class players for big transfer fees and fetishisation of same, there were parties on the streets of North London when Mesut Ozil signed for £42 million on transfer deadline day in 2013.
He heralded a new era, an end to being unable to truly challenge at the top of the Premier League. He may be remembered as the player Arsenal eventually paid to leave, but Ozil did bring about that new era. Sort of.
In his first season, Arsenal won the F.A Cup thus ending their infamous ten year trophy drought. Ozil won three more F.A Cups and broke all sorts of assist and chance creation records with Arsenal. However, they never truly saw the best of him, at least not for long enough.
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Amid a tumultuous period for both club and player, Mesut Ozil resigned from the Germany squad over a racism row and found himself shut out of the Arsenal first team for reasons which are still not entirely understood.
Meanwhile, Arsenal was rebuilding itself in the wake of the painstaking end to Arsene Wenger’s reign as manager. Unable for one reason or another to reestablish himself, Ozil’s career became as elusive as his playing style.
He left (was made to leave) Arsenal for Fenerbahçe in 2021, eventually moving to İstanbul Basaksehir the following year. While the Turkish Super League saw flashes of his impudent brilliance, his return to the land of his parents did not trigger a redemption arc. The real Mesut Ozil was gone, and he wasn’t coming back.
A player who deserved more but could also have given more, Ozil’s retirement solidifies his enigmatic place in the game. Perhaps that is fitting for such a unique player.