Written by Kavin Tamizhmani in 2013
Attacking Midfielder, #8, 25 Years Old
In a squad filled with some of the world’s best players, Germany will be a serious competitor at the upcoming 2014 World Cup. Boasting the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Müller, and Philipp Lahm, Germany has plenty of talent and will come in as one of the strongest contenders for the 2014 World Cup. Although most of its players play at the club level for the top 2 clubs in the German Bundesliga, FC Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, its biggest star plays abroad in the English Premier League. Mesut Özil, who hails from Gelsenkirchen, Germany, in the North Rhine-Westphalia region, has been performing at a world-class level since his club debut as a teenager.
Özil began his illustrious career with Rot-Weiss Essen in the Regionalliga West, German semi-professional football division, signing his first contract in 2000 . After 5 years at Rot-Weiss Essen, Özil joined the youth team of FC Schalke 04, a local Bundesliga outfit based in Gelsenkirchen. Despite his strong performances in 30 games at Schalke, Özil decided to transfer to Werder Bremen for a reported fee of €5 million due to issues between club management, his agent, and his father [2,3]. Özil replaced the Brazilian playmaker Diego at Bremen and led the club to the 2009 DFB-Pokal German knockout club cup competition, scoring the lone goal in a 1-0 win against Bayer Leverkusen at Berlin’s Olympiastadion . In the UEFA Cup competition, Özil led Werder Bremen to the cup final before losing to the Ukrainian club, Shakhtar Donetsk. In spite of his strong performances, Bremen performed poorly in the Bundesliga, finishing in 10th place in the 2008-2009 season. For his individual creativity and brilliance, Özil was rewarded with caps for the German under-21-team starting in 2007. In 2009 in the European Championship final against England, Özil was deemed the man of the match in the 4-0 victory .
For his club and under-21 national team efforts, Özil was chosen by Germany coach Joachim Low for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. “Özil is a gift for German football,” said Low of the 21-year-old . Additionally, Horst Hrubesch the manager of the under-21 squad said “We in Germany are prone to rave about foreign players. We praise Wayne Rooney to the heavens, likewise (Cristiano) Ronaldo or Messi. But we have our own Messi. Our Messi is Ozil .”
He scored against Ghana in the last game of the group stage, allowing Germany to progress to the next round as winners of the group . Özil followed up this performance with assists against England and Argentina leading Germany to the semi-finals, and he was nominated in a shortlist of the top 10 players of the tournament for the Golden Ball, an award for the best player at the FIFA World Cup .
Because of his outstanding World Cup showing, Özil attracted the attention of club giants Manchester United, Barcelona, and others, but ultimately he joined Real Madrid for €15 million . Because of an injury to Brazilian superstar Kaká, Özil was prominently featured in his first year at Madrid. In his first season, he amassed 25 assists in all club competitions. Throughout his time at Madrid from 2010-2013, Özil had 47 assists in La Liga, tied with Lionel Messi for the most assists in Europe in one of the top 5 leagues .
Özil continued playing at a high level at UEFA Euro 2012 taking Germany to the semi-finals of the tournament before bowing out in a 2-1 loss to Italy . Today, he still remains one of the most influential playmakers for club and country since his shocking transfer deadline day move to Arsenal for £42.4 million as Madrid bought Tottenham’s Gareth Bale making him the most expensive German soccer player in history .
Özil has proved to be an incredible addition to Arsenal, and has revitalized the team spirit of Arsène Wenger’s club  completing his first season with 14 assists and 7 goals in all competitions over 39 games . During his first season at Arsenal Özil also helped lead the team to a 3-1 victory over Hull City in 2014, and was, prior to the match, described as “one of the best players in Europe” by Per Mertesacker.
Aside from his exploits on the pitch, Özil serves as another example of the diversity within the German national squad as a third-generation Turkish-German, who is also a devout Muslim. Prior to each match, he recites verses from the Quran. Speaking on his Turkish roots, Ozil stated “My technique and feeling for the ball is the Turkish side to my game. The discipline, attitude and always-give-your-all is the German part .” While Germany has many members of its national team with various origins, members of the Turkish community, the largest ethnic minority group in Germany, have voiced their concerns for integration within German society [15, 16]. Thus, Özil represents more than fine performances on the pitch, he is a prime example of an immigrant success story in Germany.
Indeed, during the 2014 World Cup Özil played a crucial role in helping secure a victory for Germany, creating 17 goal-scoring-opportunities for his team mates, only barely trailing Messi, Muller, Robben, and Shaqiri. He also made one goal, two assists, and came second to Neymar when it came to winning possession in the attacking third.  While many would argue that these are impressive statistics, Özil did not escape critisism during the World Cup, occasionally being described as “sluggish” and “unhappy” by some observers. That being said, many would also argue that he was an essential part of the German team’s victory.
How to cite this article: “Germany: Mesut Özil,” Written by Kavin Tamizhmani (2013), Soccer Politics Pages, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, http://sites.duke.edu/wcwp (accessed on (date)).
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