Keen students of Germany’s Bundesliga would have been aware of Mesut Ozil’s vast potential long before his eye-catching 2010 World Cup performances.
But Ozil nonetheless came of age on the international scene with some stellar displays for Die Mannschaft (The Team), notably against Australia, England and Argentina as Germany reached the semi-finals.
Four years later he would be lifting the trophy as Germany became world champions for the first time since 1990.
Ozil is a rare commodity in world soccer, a player capable of changing a game from his role behind the strikers or in a wider position. Comparisons with Lionel Messi may be extreme, but Ozil is one of the few players in the game who can unlock a defense on a consistent basis.
With Real Madrid signing Gareth Bale in a world record deal in 2013, Los Merengues had to balance the books and Ozil left the club for Arsenal in a 50 million euro deal.
- Name: Mesut Ozil
- Nationality: German/Turkish
- Date and Place of Birth: October 15, 1988 in Gelsenkirchen, West Germany
- Position: Playmaker
- Current Club: Arsenal (Premier League)
- Previous Clubs: Schalke (2006-2008), Werder Bremen (2008-2010), Real Madrid (2010-2013)
- International Career: 2009 to present
Ozil, a third-generation member of the Kurdish community in Germany, played for a number of different clubs as a youth, including five years with Rot-Weiss Essen.
In 2005 he moved into Schalke’s youth system. His first-team appearances were initially restricted to the German Cup, but after he broke into the starting line-up, Ozil helped Schalke to a second place finish in the 2006-07 Bundesliga season.
He gained a reputation as something of a brat, who played only for himself and off the pitch, the playmaker’s relationship with the club soured when he refused to sign a new contract. The Gelsenkirchen outfit dropped Ozil but that did not have the desired affect in making him sign and after 37 appearances, he was on his way to Werder Bremen in January 2008.
Ozil was to finish as a runner-up in the Bundesliga for a second straight season as Bremen ended the campaign behind Bayern Munich.
He helped the club win the German Cup in 2008-09, scoring the winning goal in a 1-0 victory over Bayer Leverkusen in Berlin’s Olympiastadion.
He was prominent again the following season, scoring nine goals in the Bundesliga, confirming his status as one of the league’s marquee players.
Ozil became known at Bremen as “der Neue Diego” because of his similar characteristics to the Brazilian midfielder Diego who performed with extinction for the club before leaving for Juventus in 2009.
Ozil’s role in Real Madrid’s resurgence under Jose Mourinho should not be understated. He followed up his 17 Liga assists in the 2010/11 campaign with another 17 as Real ended Barcelona’s domestic dominance by winning their first title since 2008.
At the start of the season he had been handed the number 10 shirt as Mourinho made it clear he would be the side’s first choice playmaker ahead of the injury-prone Kaka. His six league goals were a modest return, but Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain all scored over 30, thanks in no small part to the German playmaker.
Ozil and Real finished the 2012-13 season empty-handed despite the German featuring at the top of the assists chart, and after the club had signed Bale, they felt the time was ripe to offload the player to Arsenal as they sought to balance the books.
Ozil started superbly for Arsenal but after hitting the ground running, his form deteriorated and the Gunners only really started seeing the best of their record signing in the second half of the 2014/15 season.
He is now one of the Premier League’s top three or four players and undisputed assist king. He has helped the Gunners to two FA Cups, and there is much expectation that Ozil can now inspire the club to a first Premier League title since 20
Despite being the son of third generation Turkish immigrants, Ozil pledged his international future to Germany at an early age.
He was instrumental in the under-21s’ European Championship win in 2009, scoring a goal and providing two assists in the final against England, winning the man of the match award in the process.
Ozil had already made his senior international debut by this time, playing in a February 2009 friendly against Norway. He scored his first goal against South Africa later in the year, but it was a series of inspired World Cup displays that saw his star rise so dramatically and prompted Real Madrid to make their move.
His performances in the 2014 World Cup triumph were less inspired but his performances in a wider position were nonetheless an important factor in the team’s run to the final.