Mesut Özil is one of the staples of contemporary European football, gaining millions of fans around the globe thanks to his brilliant assists and a quiet attitude.
Born in Gelsenkirchen, on October 15th 1988 in a working class family, it was the mix of Özil’s Turkish and German upbringing that contributed to the variety he shows in his playing style. His spontaneous side is perfectly matched through the strong discipline associated with the German mentality.
Mesut made his first footballing steps against kids nearly twice his age. This meant everything he did on the concrete field would a be way be to prove himself in front of the older boys. No breaks, no refs; just concrete and metal fencing, described in his Autobiography published earlier in the year.
Starting his pro career at the age of 18 meant he would stay at home. Özil simply went through the ranks all the way to Schalke’s A-team where he spent his first two seasons as a pro. Later, continuing his path at Bremen he scored his first Bundesliga goals.
After a very successful run at the 2010 World Cup, Özil left for Spain. Spending the following three years in Real Madrid made him internationally famous. The fact he predominantly uses his left foot means he can perfectly complement the style of his predominantly right footed team mates.
Having finished his first season with 25 assists, Özil earned himself the nickname of “German Zidane” and the love of home fans. During his time at Real Madrid, Mesut Özil won a Copa del Rey, the Spanish Championship, and a Supercopa in the 2011-2012 interval. He was playing for the Blancos during the biggest dominance of Barcelona, which explains the lack of more trophies. Individually, his runs against Barcelona were almost always noteworthy. The long passes of the left footed midfielder were known to get through even the most dense levels of tiki-taka.
However, the management decided to not proceed with his contract so the two sides parted ways through a loan. Özil left for Arsenal, where his luck with club trophies continued. So far he is the holder of three FA Cups.
Despite this transfer giving hope for fortification of his position in the field, we were witnesses of the opposite. The talented midfielder was losing confidence and making flops that turned him into one of EPL’s running jokes. It was all a far cry from the role of Cristiano Ronaldo’s right hand man. Whether it’s the difference in pace of the two leagues, the team mates or the coaching staff, something was missing. However, his long passes didn’t vanish for good. Özil’s brilliance may have been pushed into a corner somewhere, but was definitely not gone.
His assists tend to be key to his teams scoring goals, so the question of efficiency can also be put into whether or not he has enough support to follow through the opportunities he creates. Since joining Arsenal Mesut Özil created a total of 410 chances for a goal. He also holds the record of 42 assists, and the EPL record of most successful crosses -a total of 229. It’s the kind of thing that earns you an individual nomination or two. Nonetheless he does tend to lack a consistency necessary for providing quality performances week after week.
When it comes to international football, it is known to be kinder to the midfielder. After being third in South Africa, Germany won the World Cup in 2014 and Mesut Özil lifted the most coveted trophy of the sport. He was also named Player of the Year in Germany for the fifth time in six years. The third consecutive time since 2015.
Starting with his fist transfer of 75k Özil’s market value kept multiplying. He is currently estimated at 50M euros according to Transfermarkt. Not a bad deal for an often disputed talent.
Despite not being very loud about it, Özil is involved in many kinds of charity work, especially ones dedicated to helping underprivileged kids in Brazil and Africa. He pays for surgeries and other medical treatment as well as basic education.
Mesut is also known to invite the little ones to his private box at the Emirates so they could watch the matches from the best seats possible. In an earlier interview for The Times he stated: “I want to help people in need… But I don’t want people to know I’m doing it. Where I come from, you don’t show off the good things you do. (…) My aim is helping kids. Kids are the future.”
His desire to share and help comes from his humble upbringing as well as his devotion to religion. He prays before every match. Everyone around him knows not to bother him during those last few moments before stepping into the pitch. This unchanged ritual helps him focus and find peace. After the final whistle Özil is known to spend time with friends and family rather than constantly partying. Probably not the kind of winding down you expect from your average football star, but we already established he is anything but average.
*Editor’s note: Mesut Özil announced his retirement on March 22nd, 2023. Quite an end of an era for all of the football fans that love the mid 2000s.
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