Mesut Özil (German pronunciation: [ˈmeːzut ˈøːzil], Turkish: [me̞ˈsut ˈø̞zil]; born 15 October 1988) is a German footballer who plays for Premier League club Arsenal and the German national team. Özil has been a youth national team member since 2006, and a member of the German national team since 2009. He gained international attention during the 2010 FIFA World Cupand was nominated for the Golden Ball Award, which is awarded to the tournament's best player. Özil started his senior career at hometown club Schalke in the Bundesliga in 2006, transferred to Werder Bremen in 2008 and transferred to Real Madrid in August 2010 following his breakout performance at the FIFA World Cup with Germany. On transfer deadline day of summer 2013, he moved to Arsenal for a club-record fee of £42.5 million. The transfer makes him the most expensive German football player of all time.
Özil is acclaimed for his finesse and improvisation as an attacking midfielder. His style and ability for providing assists for his team-mates has been compared by former manager José Mourinho to that of Real Madrid legend Zinedine Zidane. In 2011, Özil ranked first in assists in major European and domestic competitions with 25. In 2012, he ranked first in assists in La Liga with 17. He was also one of the top assist providers in the 2010 FIFA World Cup and UEFA Euro 2012 with three in both.
Gelsenkirchen and Rot-Weiss Essen
Özil began his youth career playing for various clubs in Gelsenkirchen and then played five years for Rot-Weiss Essen.
In 2005, Özil moved to the youth department of Schalke 04. He was deployed a midfielder and wore 17 as his squad number, after starting as a playmaker and central attacking midfielder in the place of the suspended Lincoln in Ligapokal matches against Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich. On making the first team at Schalke, he was described as "the next big thing," but he eventually fell out with club management and moved on to Werder Bremen in January 2008.
Özil with Werder Bremen in April 2010
On 31 January 2008, Özil moved to Werder Bremen for a reported fee of €4.3 million, signing a contract with the German club until 30 June 2011. Fresh off his fallout at Schalke 04, he stepped into the shoes of Brazilian playmaker Diego to help lead the north German club to the 2009 DFB-Pokal with the winning goal in a 1–0 victory over Bayer Leverkusen in Berlin. He also excelled in Europe where he led Werder Bremen to the final of the last ever UEFA Cup, losing out to Shakhtar Donetsk of Ukraine. Although Bremen failed to get going in their 2008–09 Bundesliga season, eventually finishing a disappointing 10th, Özil managed to make a significant impact in most games and came away with a respectable three goals and 15 assists that highlighted his attacking credentials. In his second season, Bremen finished a respectable third, with Özil contributing 9 goals and 17 assists in 31 league fixture appearances.
Özil playing for Real Madrid in 2010
Due to his performances in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Özil ensured his place among Europe's top young talents. He was sought by teams like Barcelona, Arsenal, andReal Madrid. English striker Wayne Rooney was one of the many admirers Özil had garnered with his performances in the World Cup, and had even asked Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson to sign the German playmaker. There were reports claiming that a deal was struck for a transfer to Barça. Werder Bremen denied the reports and on 17 August 2010, the team announced that they had reached an agreement with Real Madrid for Özil's transfer. The transfer fee is believed to have been in the region of €15 million. Upon signing, Özil said, "When the offer came in to join Real Madrid, there is no decision to make. Let's be honest – you don't refuse this club. I was in no rush to leave Werder Bremen, but this is one club you say yes to. They are an institution, a club with a fantastic history, stadium and squad full of world-class players. The prospect of performing at the Bernabeu is so awesome you jump straight in." Özil made his debut on 22 August in a friendly match againstHércules, which Real Madrid won 3–1. His jersey numbers were changed often before the season started. He was given the number 26 in the pre-season and 19 for his debut. But following the transfer of Rafael van der Vaart to Tottenham Hotspur, he was given the vacant 23.
Özil was brought in to back up teammate Kaká, but due to his surgery, Özil obtained a starting role. He then made his La Liga debut for Real Madrid as a substitute for Ángel di María in the 62nd minute against Mallorca, which Real Madrid drew 0–0.
Özil taking on Daniele Bonera ofMilan during the 2010–11 UEFA Champions League.
He made his season debut in the Champions League on 15 September. He got his first assist with Real Madrid in the 74th minute against Ajax after he crossed for a Gonzalo Higuaín goal.
He walked off the pitch as a second half substitute to standing ovations in his first two games as a starter at the Santiago Bernabéu. His first goal came in a league match against Deportivo La Coruña on 3 October 2010, in a 6–1 victory. Özil's first Champions League goal with Real came in the 14th minute against Milan on 19 October 2010. On 22 December, he made his debut in the Copa del Rey, scoring once in an 8–0 victory over Levante.
He finished the season with 25 assists, the highest for any player in any major European competition that season. Özil's performances for Real Madrid during his first season were praised by media, fans and players.
Özil began wearing the number 10 shirt for Real Madrid in 2011–12, signalling manager José Mourinho's intent to use the German international as his main playmaker. On 14 August 2011, Özil scored his first goal against Barcelona in El Clásico in the first leg of the 2011 Supercopa de España. On 17 August 2011, Özil was sent off in the last minute of the second leg of the 2011 Supercopa after an altercation with Barça forward David Villa. Özil expressed his desire to end his football days at the club in an interview with German magazine kicker, saying, "I'd like to end my career at Real Madrid. I know it will be difficult because I have many more years ahead of me and many younger and good players will also be out there, but I want to be part of that future. I know what I'm capable of, and I'm convinced, I'll stay at Real Madrid many years."
Özil was on the short-list of the FIFA Ballon d'Or award.
Özil's boots on display at the Santiago Bernabeu museum
He finished atop the La Liga assists chart, with 17 assists. On 2 May 2012, he helped Real Madrid to clinch a record 32nd La Liga title as he assisted Real Madrid's first goal and scored the second goal against Bilbao, which Real Madrid later won by 3–0. Eleven days later, Özil scored two goals in the final game of the regular season against RCD Mallorca, once again consolidating his excellent performance with the club. The win made Real the first club in the Spanish top flight to ever reach 100 points in a single season. His fine form with Real Madrid and German national team saw him earn nomination for UEFA Best Player in Europe Award, in which he finished 10th, being the youngest player to feature in the Top 10.
With arrival of Luka Modrić before the start of the season, some in the media claimed Özil was unhappy at Real Madrid, but he later rejected such talk and claimed he was happy at the club and looking forward to compete for his place. After the start of the season, he added the Supercopa de España title to his honours. In league play, he provided an important assist to Cristiano Ronaldo who equalised in a 2–2 draw against Barcelona at Camp Nou. On 6 November, Özil scored a crucial 89th-minute free-kick to rescue a draw for Real Madrid and secure a point againstBorussia Dortmund. He continued his fine form in the league as he scored another brace against Real Valladolid to rescue Real Madrid in a 3–2 win. He then went on to finish the season with 29 assists, although Real Madrid did not win any silverware except for the Supercopa de España, Özil's performance was praised. At the end of the season, Ozil had more assists than any other player in the league, with 26 assists.
Özil taking a free-kick for Arsenalagainst Stoke City on 22 September 2013.
On 2 September 2013, Özil agreed to join English side Arsenal. Both fee and contract duration were undisclosed, but they are believed to be around £42.5 million for a five-year deal. The transfer makes him the most expensive German football player of all time. Özil was assigned the number 11 shirt and the centre-attacking midfield role by the team.
Özil said of the transfer: "At the weekend, I was certain I would stay at Real Madrid but afterwards I realised I did not have the faith from the coach or the bosses. I am a player who needs this faith and that is what I have felt from Arsenal, which is why I have joined." In Özil's first press conference, he said: "I would have come here for free, that wouldn't have been a problem." He had also said: "when I spoke to Arsène Wenger on the phone, he was full of respect, and as a player, I need that." Several Real Madrid players were dissatisfied with Özil leaving the club, including Cristiano Ronaldo, who said: "He was the player who best knew my moves in front of goal ... I'm angry about Özil leaving."
Özil and Olivier Giroud before kick-off against Southampton on 23 November 2013.
Özil made his debut for Arsenal in their league game away to Sunderland on 14 September 2013. He assisted Olivier Giroud's goal in the 11th minute of the match as they went on to win 3–1. Three days after that, he made his Champions League debut for Arsenal against Marseille. Just over three weeks after making his debut for Arsenal, he made his home debut againstStoke City in a 3–1 victory. He was involved in all three goals, with two assists and a free kick which was saved but fell into Aaron Ramsey's path. He scored his first goal for Arsenal, a brilliantly controlled finish from a Ramsey cross, in a 2–0 win against Napoli in the Champions League. On 19 October, he scored his first two Premier League goals during the 4–1 home win againstNorwich City. Özil played in all six of Arsenal's games in November. The German playmaker provided the cross for Jack Wilshere's second goal against Marseille and gave further assists for Aaron Ramsey and Mathieu Flamini in the 3-0 win over Cardiff City. Özil missed the chance to score his third Arsenal goal when he saw his penalty in the win over Marseille saved by Steve Mandanda.
Özil was again short-listed for the FIFA Ballon d'Or award, along with former teammate Cristiano Ronaldo. Özil was also featured on the UEFA Team of the Year.
Özil began December in fine fashion with two goals as many games against Hull City and Everton. A minor shoulder injury forced Özil out of the final game of December in a win againstNewcastle United. After the 6–3 defeat at Manchester City, Özil was involved in an altercation with teammate Per Mertesacker. Mertesacker was angry with Özil for failing to thank the travelling supporters. Özil subsequently apologised, via Facebook, for failing to acknowledge the Arsenal fans.
Özil started four of Arsenal's six games in January. The playmaker missed Arsenal's victory over Cardiff City on New Year's Day with a shoulder injury before returning to make a late appearance from the bench against Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup. The 25-year-old produced a slide-rule pass for Lukas Podolski to score his first goal against Coventry City and provided the ball forSanti Cazorla's goal against Southampton at the end of the month to take his assist tally to 10.
February was a difficult month for Özil as he struggled to reach the heights he showed in his first few months at the club. The German playmaker pulled off a brilliant piece of skill to win a penalty against Bayern Munich in the Champions League knockout phase, but his spot-kick saved by Manuel Neuer. Speaking before the draw with Manchester United, Arsène Wenger spoke about Özil, saying: "He has done well, he is adapting as well to the Premier League – we have seen it before [that it takes time]. I wouldn't like to put too much pressure on him because he has been a top-class player until now. He didn't have the best of games [at Liverpool] (a 5–1 loss, where Özil was the centre of attention due to a bad performance) but that can happen. He works very hard to adapt to the physical level of the Premier League and for me he is an exceptional player."
On 8 March, Özil scored his first goal of 2014 in a 4–1 FA Cup quarter-final win over Everton. Özil was showing signs of old form and started in Arsenal's second leg Champions League last 16 clash with Bayern Munich. He was subsitituted at half-time, and the reasoning behind it was that Özil had suffered a hamstring injury and will face a month out, missing key fixtures against Chelsea and Manchester City.
On 20 April, Özil made an instant impact with a lively display against Hull when he returned to the Arsenal team in a 3–0 win. He then returned to goalscoring form with Arsenal's second in their 3–0 win over Newcastle United, and then assisted Olivier Giroud's header. Manager Wenger praised Özil's impact upon his return, saying "Mesut Ozil is very important for the team. He's been missed while he's been injured. We've missed some very important players in an important period of the season. We're really pleased to have people like him back in the team and performing at the top level because that's what we need." On 17 May, Özil started in the 2014 FA Cup Final as Arsenal defeated Hull City 3–2 at Wembley Stadium.
Özil playing for Germany in 2009
Özil playing for Germany in 2011
In an interview with FourFourTwo Magazine, Özil spoke about his choice to play for the German national team: "I am third generation in Germany: my father grew up here. Turkey will always be a special country for me but I did not doubt my decision to play for Germany – ever. I started to play for Germany in the youth teams."
In September 2006, Özil was called up for the Germany under-17 team. Özil was a member of the German under-21 team from 2007. On 29 June 2009, Özil was selected the man of the match in a 4–0 win over England during the U-21 European Championship final.
He made his debut for the senior side during a friendly match against Norway on 11 February 2009. He scored his first goal for the senior team in his third appearance, another friendly, against South Africa on 5 September in Leverkusen at the BayArena.
On an individual level, Özil was rewarded for his outstanding Bundesliga play by being named the best player of the first leg of the 2009 season.
2010 FIFA World Cup
Özil was selected for Germany's squad for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, starting in all of the team's matches. Özil provided an assist for Cacau's goal to the 4–0 final score against Australia in Germany's first group game. He scored a left-footed half-volley from the edge of the penalty area against Ghana in the final group game, ensuring Germany progressed to the second round as groupwinners.
On 27 June 2010, Özil played in Germany's win over England in the last 16 match, setting up the fourth goal with a cross to Thomas Müller as Germany triumphed 4–1. During the quarter-final match against Argentina, he assisted the second goal for Miroslav Klose with a cross to ensure the 4–0 final score for the Germans. FIFA announced that he was among the ten tournament players nominated for the Golden Ball.
UEFA Euro 2012
Özil was one of the leading forces in Germany's qualification for UEFA Euro 2012, scoring five times during the campaign as Germany won 10 out of 10 games to top their group. Özil also confirmed his reputation as a decisive passer, as he provided seven assists, more than any European international during Euro 2012 qualification. When asked about his country's chances at Euro 2012, Özil simply replied, "We have the potential to beat anyone and we have what it takes to win the title."
On 29 February 2012, Özil was recognised as Germany's best international of the year for 2011 prior to kick-off at a friendly against France in Bremen. Özil's Germany were drawn with the Netherlands, Denmark and Portugal into Group B at Euro 2012, widely touted as the "Group of Death". His performance at Euro 2012 earned him two Carlsberg Man of the Match Awards.
2014 FIFA World Cup
Özil ended the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification campaign as Germany's top scorer with eight goals.
Style of play
Germany under-21 manager Horst Hrubesch once said, "We in Germany are prone to rave about foreign players. We praise Wayne Rooney to the heavens, likewise Ronaldo or Messi. But we have our own Messi. Our Messi is Özil." In the UEFA Euro 2012 qualifier against Belgium he scored a goal which has been described as a "work of art." Germany coach Joachim Löw hails Özil for his 'genius moments' and his performance without the ball.
Real Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso described Özil as "the kind of player you don't find these days," adding, "He understands the game, sees things, combines and thrives between the lines, unlocking teams," while José Mourinho said, "Ozil is unique. There is no copy of him – not even a bad copy." Mourinho also stated that, "He is the best number 10 in the world. Everyone loves him and sees a bit of Luis Figo and Zinedine Zidane in him. He will make history at Real Madrid." Assistant coach of the Germany national football team Hans-Dieter Flick says, "We are proud to have him in our team. When he has the ball, you can feel the excitement and astonishment among the fans." FormerNetherlands and Milan forward Ruud Gullit labelled Özil as a "technically perfect" player who has "total control of the ball" and has "great imagination".
His nicknames have included "der Rabe" (the Raven, or in Spanish, "El Cuervo") – playing on his smart and opportunistic style of play, and at Werder Bremen “der neue Diego” (the new Diego) in reference to Brazilian Diego, whose playmaker role he inherited, "German Messi" and "German Zidane". At Real Madrid, he was supposedly called "Nemo" – in reference to the clownfish Nemo from the Pixar movie Finding Nemo. His attacking midfieldpartnership in Germany internationals with young talent Mario Götze has earned the 'magic duo' the nickname Götzil, alluding to their similar playing positions, technique, abilities, and style of play.
Özil is a third-generation Turkish-German, who, in reference to his game, concludes, "My technique and feeling for the ball is the Turkish side to my game. The discipline, attitude and always-give-your-all is the German part." Although of Turkish descent, his entire life has been committed to Germany. His ancestors are from Devrek, Zonguldak in North-Western Turkey.
Özil is a practising Muslim. He recites the Quran before his matches. Talking to the Berlin-based daily Der Tagesspiegel, Özil said, "I always do that before I go out (on the pitch). I pray and my teammates know that they cannot talk to me during this brief period." He observes fasting during the Islamic month of Ramadan but he has admitted that: "Because of my job I cannot follow Ramadan properly. I do it only the few days I can, only when I have a free day. But other than that it's impossible, because you have to drink and eat a lot to stay at peak fitness."
In 2010, Özil received the Bambi award for being a prime example of successful integration within German society.
In 2013, Özil signed a sponsorship deal with German sportswear and equipment supplier, Adidas. In 2013, Özil launched his own logo.