By Andrew Warshaw
January 25 – He cost almost £42 million when he moved to Arsenal over seven years ago, then a club record, helped Germany win the World Cup, earned an eye-watering weekly fortune but has now been transferred for precisely nothing.
Mesut Ozil, one of the English Premier League’s most notable enigmas, has completed a free transfer to Fenerbahce in Turkey despite, he insists, being a “Gunner for life.”
Because of his huge wage demands, in a bizarre move Fenerbahce, who are massively in debt, have asked their supporters to help pay Ozil’s salary by donating money to the club after his Arsenal contract was terminated six months early.
“We have a request for our fans. Please continue to support us, we are also dependent on your financial support,” said Fenerbahce president Ali Koc who has given Ozil, who supported the club as a boy, a three-and-a-half-year deal.
As his move was confirmed, Ozil, who is of Turkish ancestry, paid tribute to Arsenal, where he reportedly earned £350,000 a week, tellingly without mentioning manager Mikel Arteta.
“The support I have felt from the team and fans during my time here has been truly incredible and something I will always be grateful for,” said Ozil who refused to take a pay cut last summer when Arsenal were looking to balance the books in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Together we won trophies for the first time in years and created memories that will last a lifetime. The Arsenal fans will forever remain in my heart.”
Although he was a member of Germany’s World cup-winning squad in 2014, it all went sour four years later when the country went out at the group stage.
In a remarkable move that spilled over into the political arena, Ozil quit international football at the age of just 29 claiming he could no longer take the “racism and disrespect” he says he faced over his Turkish roots. It all stemmed from him being photographed with controversial Turkish president Recep Erdogan. Not surprisingly Erdogan’s government heaped praise on Ozil at the time.
Although Ozil has been on the sidelines at Arsenal for months on end (he was left out of their Champions League and Europa League squads), such was the excitement at his transfer that within half an hour of him announcing the move to Fenerbache on Twitter, the post was retweeted over 105,000 times. More than 300,000 Fenerbahce fans then tracked his private jet from London.
“The past few months haven’t been the easiest. Like every player, I want to play every minute of football for my team,” he said on leaving London. “In life however, things do not always play out how we expect or want them to.”
Now he has a second chance and the opportunity to prove that Arsenal’s loss is someone else’s gain.
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