Arsenal and Mesut Ozil were never going to part ways swiftly and silently. After all the debate and drama that has surrounded these two parties in recent years it was inevitable that their separation would come about in full view of the footballing world.
The sight of Jose Mourinho addressing Ozil’s future was the last thing the Gunners would want in their very public divorce from the man they pledged $475,000 a week to just under three years ago. Within six months of the ink drying on that contract there were those at the club who regretted an agreement that was made amid fears over losing him for free. As Fenerbahce look to secure his services, they are currently awaiting negotiations over how much they will pay him if he is to leave early.
“Who told him that Tottenham is interested in signing him?” joked Mourinho when it was put to him that the former Germany international had said on a Twitter Q&A that he would rather retire than don a Spurs shirt. It was a harsh putdown from a manager who had coaxed perhaps the best football out of Ozil during their time together with Real Madrid.
Indeed when Mourinho was at Old Trafford there was constant speculation that he would look to snare the Arsenal No.10 at the end of his contract. Now there are no platitudes for Ozil, just a brisk reminder that Spurs would not be interested in his services even if he was prepared to set his loyalties to Arsenal to one side.
The harsh reality is that has been the case for some time where Ozil is concerned. Arsenal have been looking to offload him for the past two years but at the wages he is on they have found no takers. Juventus were offered the chance to loan him late in 2020 but had no interest in a move. Inter Milan have also opted against pursuing him on several occasions.
This does not mean that Ozil was not held in high regard by clubs but rather that few could justify matching his salary when he was more luxury addition than cornerstone of the way they play. Even now that Arsenal have gravitated back to a central playmaker in Emile Smith Rowe – to which Ozil tweeted “really happy for him… and that he showed that playing with a No.10 still can make sense in today’s football” – they have found someone who offers the pressing that their outgoing star did not always.
Now, as negotiations with Fenerbahce and Arsenal approach an end point that all parties agree is in their best interests, Ozil’s future has become a topic not just for Arteta to address but also for his rival managers. CBS Sports understands that there has been no direct contact between Arsenal and Fenerbahce but should the 32-year-old reach an agreement with the Turkish club the Gunners would not demand a transfer fee. Instead they are expected to hold dialogues with Ozil’s representatives over how much of the remainder of his contract, which expires on June 30, they would pay if he opted to depart now. He could opt to see out the final months of his deal but would do so without any likely prospect of regular game time.
Despite his absence from the pitch, Ozil still makes his presence known. His semi-frequent Twitter Q&As have rarely been cause for rejoicing in the corridors of the Emirates Stadium. Having been left out of Mikel Arteta’s Premier League squad there is a reluctance from Arsenal and their manager to get bogged down in conversations over the playmaker for all that he dominates the media agenda even in his absence. As was the case with Unai Emery, Arteta on occasion bristles when forced to address the matter of his best-paid player. He has been willing to take complete responsibility both for the decision to leave him out of his plans and for the player’s own performances but the Arsenal manager gives the impression he would rather talk about any other topic than a player who will soon be gone.
Yet Ozil’s renewed commitment to engaging with supporters in exile – he has taken to tweeting along with Arsenal matches on occasion – rarely keeps him out of the headlines. Before Christmas he verbalised what was widely known as Arteta’s side struggled for wins, tweeting in response to a fan question “it’s a very difficult time for everyone around the club”, a comment that seemed only to heighten the tension in north London.
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That Arsenal have found their successor only heightens the sense that it is time for them to move on, an assessment that Ozil appears to agree with now that Fenerbahce have offered him the chance to fulfil a long-held dream and play in Turkey. After so much talk, decisive action is fast approaching and with it a separation that both sides have long needed.