Having arrived in Turkey to complete his move to Fenerbahce, this wasn’t how Mesut Ozil’s Arsenal career was supposed to end. The mercurial talent’s arrival in north London from Real Madrid in 2013 was met with elation, joy and much ecstasy among those who follow the club.
The Gunners smashed their transfer record by an astounding £24.7m to land the German, who at the time was without question one of the most influential creative forces in the game.
Fast-forward to the present day and you’d struggle to find a more divisive figure to have worn the club’s famous red and white jersey. Handed a bumper contract reportedly worth £350k per week at the start of 2018, many would argue that was a mistake with the benefit of hindsight, and one that has hamstrung the club financially ever since.
Having lost Alexis Sanchez to Manchester United, securing the World Cup winner’s services for another three years was a major win in the eyes of many Arsenal fans. But after being snubbed repeatedly by Unai Emery and Mikel Arteta, the writing has been on the wall for the attacking midfielder for quite some time.
Left out of the squads registered to play in both the Premier League and the Europa League, Ozil became a bit of a martyr in the eyes of those who remain unconvinced by the appointment of Arteta. Disputes over pay cuts, the player’s comments regarding China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims and his role in the squad have made his position at the Emirates Stadium untenable, and so the termination of his contract always felt like the only viable solution.
His talent is undeniable, but his application – or lack of it – has rubbed sections of the fanbase up the wrong way, hence the divide. The Ozil saga appears to have reached a conclusion, but looking back on his seven and a half year stint with the Gunners, has it all been bad?
At the time of his arrival, Arsenal were at the tail-end of a trophy drought, and having played in every round bar one of the 2014 FA Cup-winning campaign, he played his part in ending the nine-year wait for silverware.
The club went on to win three FA Cup in four seasons following the arrivals of Ozil and then Alexis Sanchez, who were widely considered to be the catalysts for that successful period which significantly relieved the pressure on legendary boss Arsene Wenger.
The term ‘legend’ feels as though it’s thrown around too easily at times, and although you could make a strong case that says Ozil’s arrival propelled Arsenal to a level where they could compete for silverware again, it’s a no from me – just.
Too much is often made of the financial terms of the player’s second contract with the club. After all, it was the hierarchy who agreed to it, most likely from fear of the backlash they’d have had to contend with if Ozil had followed Sanchez out of the door.
A legend? Perhaps not, but a leach? That feels unfair. Whatever your view on how the last 18 months have played out, at his brilliant best, Mesut was a joy to watch. His unrivalled vision, elegance and footballing brain certainly make him one of the most talented to ever pull on the shirt. However, the unsavoury events of late and the way it’s all ended have denied him legendary status.