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Don't do it! Why Ozil better than sitting out final year of Arsenal contract

COMMENT: He's better than this. On and off the pitch. Mesut Ozil is better and has more to offer than simply running down the final year of his Arsenal contract...

Have you joined the pile on yet? Y'know, the one led by certain pundits. By particular rotund morning tv show hosts. Even vice-chairme-, ahem, -persons. The one that claims Ozil doesn't deserve a place at Arsenal. That he's a drag on morale. On team spirit. That he does just enough to get by.

And of course, all this criticism is about what's best for Arsenal - even Ozil, himself. It's not about clicks, views or clout. These critics surely wouldn't be using the German as a punching bag to improve their own lagging profile, would they...?

But if you listen to those who know Ozil best. Who have played, trained and lived day-to-day with the midfielder. Even those now away from the club, with no reason to shy from joining the pile on, you get a very, very different story.

And this is why, at 31 years of age, Ozil needs to seriously think about doing more than running down the final year of his contract. If he can't find a place in manager Mikel Arteta's setup. If his face doesn't fit for the Basque. Then Ozil - and not just for the sake of his own career, but what he can offer others - should be seeking pastures new. A new club. A new League. Where his style of game can thrive and the example he sets - on and off the pitch - can continue to lift those around him.

Which is what Ozil has been doing since his first days with Real Madrid a decade ago. The media portrayal a far different proposition to what we get from those who know him best.

"At Arsenal, I look up to Mesut Ozil a lot," so says young teammate and fellow midfielder Emile Smith Rowe. “I watch him in training and the movement he has and the little touches he does. For me to train with him every day, I can't think of anything better."

Charlie Gilmour, now of Norwich City, goes further in defending his former senior colleague: "The ability Mesut Ozil has is crazy. He sees passes that others just can't see. He's huge. I always get questions about his effort and I don't know why Mesut gets so much c***."

Alex Iwobi, of Everton, also says: "Obviously because of his body language people think he's not working hard but he actually works hard, people judge it wrong."

So you get the picture. Far from setting a poor example. Encouraging bad habits. Ozil, over the seven years he's been with the club, has been a positive role-model for Arsenal's young players. A leader. An inspiration. Someone to aspire to. And his peers feel the same.

"He is an extremely down-to-earth guy, always ready to help," insists Granit Xhaka, "and he works hard in training and in my opinion he really enjoys football."

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"For me to train with him every day, I can't think of anything better" - Emile Smith Rowe on Mesut Ozil.


For the moment, it's almost a hushed secret. As Iwobi says, that "body language", coupled with the constant barbs from critics, has created a negative myth around Ozil. "Actually, if you look underneath all that, there's a really sweet human being in there," says Gunners icon Tony Adams, not one to mince his words, "a really shy boy, that has enormous talent, but he's surrounded by a lot of mess."

By "mess", Adams is referring to Ozil's long time and loyal fixer, Erkut Sogut. But the former Arsenal captain is wrong on this one. Sogut has used a soft hand working with Ozil - which perhaps is something that needs to change if his good friend is to get the most out of the remaining years of his career.

That Sogut, who declared this week Ozil "will continue until the summer of 2021", supports the midfielder seeing out the final 12 months of his contract is understandable. £330,000-a-week would be tough to sacrifice - particularly given what Ozil has lost this season (notwithstanding he and wife Amine coping with the after-effects of last July's violent attempted robbery).

His public support for the Uighers in China hastened adidas' decision to end their seven-year association. There'd be no special boots or chat show appearances for this 'social justice' declaration. Indeed, football - as an industry - effectively abandoned Ozil for his stand. A deal worth a mooted £25m now over.

But money isn't the issue for Ozil. His prolific charity work is proof enough of that. Covering the bill for a 1,000 operations for children around the world. Feeding 100,000 at refugee camps. Taking care of another £240,000 bill for sick kids in Brazil. And working with the London-based Rays of Sunshine charity. All this achieved just in the last year. Again, not the actions of the cartoon created by those throwing the spite.

But Sogut, for the sake of his good friend, must recognise that Ozil - for the man he is - deserves better than simply sitting out the final year of the contract he negotiated just over two years ago. A great piece of business. But one that now needs to be ripped up.

Ozil needs his swansong. And not one that's hidden away in the US or Japan. Nor even Turkey. If something can be settled with Arsenal regarding covering part of his wages, this column knows there'll be a stampede to Sogut's office door this summer. France, where newfound ambition actually exists beyond PSG, could be a destination. As would Serie A, where we've been told by intermediaries that Ozil would have no problem finding himself a big club move - if the terms were right.

A Roma. A Napoli. In a competition more technical than physical. It would be the ideal conclusion to Ozil's career. The chance to play football again. To be appreciated for what he does on the pitch - and to use that to promote his charitable interests off it.

This is what Ozil deserves. Arsenal's No10, as a player and a man, is far better than sitting on the final year of a contract - no matter how much it pays.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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