Mesut Ozil was the future once.
‘A world-class player who is one of Europe’s brightest young talents,’ gushed then-Arsenal chief Ivan Gazidis.
Mesut Ozil joined Arsenal in a £42.4m transfer from Real Madrid in 2013 – a club record deal
Six years on, he is a marginalised figure who rarely plays despite earning £350,000-a-week
Ozil has played just 142 minutes so far this season – he has cost Arsenal £342 per second
At the time, Ozil was just 24. He had already won 47 caps for his country and picked up five major honours.
To prise the German from Real Madrid, Wenger had persuaded Arsenal to part with £42.4million – more than double the club’s previous transfer record.
Six years on, the numbers make rather less pretty reading.
Now, 30, Ozil has made just two appearances all season – one in the Carabao Cup, one in the Premier League. That the German remains the club’s highest earner, pocketing £350,000 a week, is a stark illustration of how far his star has fallen.
Once seen as the perfect incarnation of modern No 10, Ozil is now being left to rot, with the club picking up the bill for their excess.
This season, he has played just 142 minutes of first-team football, costing the club £19,718 a pop. That equates to £328 for every second the German has been on the pitch.
Ozil and Sead Kolasinac were ambushed by attackers on mopeds in London in the summer
They both missed Arsenal’s game with Newcastle but are now free to feature for the club
There have been mitigating circumstances, of course. Over the summer, Ozil and team-mate Sead Kolasinac were ambushed by attackers on mopeds in north west London. Two weeks later they were left out of the Arsenal squad to face Newcastle following ‘further security incidents’.
Now, though, Ozil is fit and ready to play. In theory at least.
Against Bournemouth last Sunday, Ozil was left out of the Gunners squad for the second time in a week. This week, while many of his team-mates are away with their national teams, Ozil can put his feet up once more. The 30-year-old, a World Cup winner with Germany, has been ostracised from Joachim Low’s setup, too.
OZIL IN 2019-20
Watford 2-2 Arsenal: Ozil played 71 minutes
Arsenal 5-0 Nottingham Forest: Ozil played 71 minutes
Goals: 0 Assists: 0
Some will say his exile was self-inflicted. Following Germany’s embarrassing group stage exit at the 2018 World Cup, Ozil announced he no longer wanted to play for Germany – citing ‘racism and disrespect’.
Former team-mate Toni Kroos accused him of talking ‘nonsense’. But many felt Ozil had been unfairly scapegoated.
The playmaker hinted that his Turkish heritage and Muslim faith had influenced the way he had been treated.
What seemed clear was that he had become a political pawn.
Shortly before the tournament, Ozil was heavily criticised for being photographed alongside Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, eight years after Angela Merkel was accused of using the midfielder for political gain when she posed for a photo with the so-labelled posterboy of integration in Germany.
Ozil was criticised for having his photo taken with Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan
In 2010, Germany’s Angela Merkel (right) was criticised for a picture with Ozil after a match
Ozil got married on June 7 in Istanbul and Turkey’s president was there in attendance
No such accusations have been thrown at Unai Emery – the Arsenal boss overseeing his stark fall from grace.
There were signs last season that all wasn’t well, when the playmaker was left out for several away games. This season, though, his decline has gathered pace.
Ozil has not featured in any of the Gunners’ past three Premier League games. Against both Manchester United and Bournemouth, he was left out of the squad completely.
Publicly, Emery is yet to shut the door on the German’s future at the club. But his words are telling.
‘When I decided he shouldn’t be in the squad it’s because I think other players deserved it more,’ he said after a recent Europa League win over Standard Liege.
Come January, Arsenal are open to letting the playmaker leave, with the German’s eye-watering wages proving a huge drain on finances.
They would even be willing to pay some of his wages to help secure his exit.
But there are fears Ozil is happy to stay put. The 30-year-old, who is under contract at Arsenal until 2021, is settled in London – despite the attacks earlier this year.
Where he goes from here, though, remains unclear. With the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Nicolas Pepe and Bukayo Saka, it seems Emery wants his side to be destroying teams with pace – rather than with possession.
Arsenal prefer a pacy attack including Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
And for Germany, chances of Ozil being handed a call-up in the near future are very bleak
Ozil, pictured Tuesday on Instagram, will aim to force a way back after the international break
Ozil would surely relish the chance to feed such a potent forward line and statistics suggest he still has a role to play.
Since Emery took over, no Arsenal midfielder or forward has created more chances than Ozil’s 46. No one can match his average of 2.3 per 90 minutes.
In the six years he has been in England, Ozil has created 522 chances, behind only Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen, while his tally of 52 assists in that time is only bettered by Kevin De Bruyne (53), David Silva (56) and Eriksen (61).
He was recently named one of Arsenal’s five captains but Emery appears to consider him surplus to requirements with the likes of academy graduate Joe Willock now ahead of Ozil in the pecking order. It’s been a strange demise for a player who has long polarised opinion.
Ozil has taken his fair share of criticism from Arsenal fans. But few know him better than Per Mertesacker, who played with Ozil at Werder Bremen, Arsenal, and with Germany.
‘He loves playing football. It doesn’t come across so often. He is a genius in terms of what he can produce with the ball… he can deliver that ball that no one else can deliver. He has got that magical sense.’
Arsenal will look to get rid of Ozil in January but it is feared he is happy to stay with his wages
Ozil has frustrated fans and Unai Emery for his inconsistent levels of performances at Arsenal
Mertesacker, who now heads up the Arsenal academy, admitted recently that he understands why fans become frustrated with the playmaker.
‘He’s a different character and sometimes I struggled with that. When I approached him and said this is not what we do here, I thought that sticks with us longer. For him it’s, “No, that’s OK, I accept that we move forward”. I was really pissed, for days and weeks.’
He added: ‘Probably (fans) don’t understand him… but ultimately it has to come from him if he wants to go to the next level.’
That seems more unlikely with every passing week.