The Gunners’ record signing played it cool at his unveiling on Thursday – but he will be out to make his detractors at Real Madrid regret his departure
By Greg Stobart
If there was one message that Mesut Ozil was particularly keen to hammer home during his unveiling on Thursday, it was his belief that Arsenal is a “family”, an environment where he can become one of the greats in world football.
It was a measured, confident first performance in front of the British media corps from Arsenal’s new record signing as he spoke up the club’s chances of ending their trophy draught, credited Arsene Wenger for the €47 million transfer and described the Premier League as the best division in the world.
Wenger, for his part, expressed his surprise that Real Madrid were ready to part with a player who is approaching the stage in his career where he can step up from ‘great’ to ‘dominant’ during the course of his five-year contract at the Emirates Stadium.
It was on the subject of the Spanish giants that, if only ever so slightly, Ozil bristled. His voice tightened, he sat up straight and looked the German reporter in the eye.
“I did not get the respect and the trust in Madrid,” said Ozil. “It was a bit difficult and when I talked to Arsene on the phone, he was full of respect. As a player I need the respect. I felt that here and that’s why I wanted to come.”
In short, the 24-year-old felt under-appreciated in the Spanish capital, where in three years he recorded 27 goals and 94 assists; where his departure was greeted with anger from fans and players alike, including Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos.
While Ozil spoke respectfully of his time at Real Madrid, he was clearly irked by suggestions in Spain that he lacked professionalism during his time at the club and became preoccupied by women and nightclubs.
Real legend Zinedine Zidance also questioned his ‘strength and will’ to fight, but Ozil said: “We achieved trophies and I had a great time there, but the people who know me know how professional I am.
“I played 159 games – you can’t play that many games if you’re not professional.”
Much has been made of the significance of the Ozil signing for Arsenal, their first step back into the big time, a serious signal of intent and a world class signing to compare with the arrival of Dennis Bergkamp in 1995.
But little has been made of what it actually means for Ozil.
Yes, it is a step down from Real Madrid, but he is right to say that at Arsenal he will have the environment he craves, the team built around him.
His abilities are well suited to the Premier League and he dismissed any suggestion that English football will be too physical for him. If Santi Cazorla, Juan Mata and David Silva can thrive, Ozil will be just fine.
Ozil may feel he like he was cast off by Real, a consequence of their decision to pay a world record £86m to sign Gareth Bale from Tottenham. Players only leave Real Madrid when the club no longer want them and that will fuel Ozil to show they made a serious error of judgement.
The likes of Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben have done just that after leaving the Bernabeu and Ozil will be out to do the same when he makes his Arsenal debut at Sunderland on Saturday, most probably off the bench.
Ozil says he is motivated by self-improvement and that Wenger, who speaks fluent German and was the major factor in his move to Arsenal, will bring out the best in him.
In the background, though, will be the point he has to prove to doubters in Madrid. Wenger is right – Ozil now has the chance to become one of the greats and show Real what they missed out on.