It's not been uncommon for Mesut Özil to find himself at the centre of attention during his Arsenal career. There is perhaps no player that has split opinion more at the Emirates in recent times.
You're lying if you say you think Özil is a bad footballer. You're also lying if you say he demonstrates his ability enough. In truth, the mercurial German will continue to polarise opinion because he's just that type of figure.
Absolutely, Özil deserves scrutiny for his performances on the pitch - that's the reality of an elite footballer.
It's not easy to empathise with a World Cup-winning, European star who is Arsenal's best-paid player. However, some of the off-field pressures, scrutiny, and obstacles Özil has faced extends far beyond what he deserves.
For a change then, let's not lose ourselves in the unending assessment of Özil as a footballer. Instead, let us look at some of the issues he's faced that have undoubtedly contributed towards his fall from grace. Regrettably, there's been a number of unsavoury events...
January 2018 - Arsenal Offering a £350k Contract Renewal
Of course, we start with the unbearable moment when Özil signed a new contract in 2018 which ensured he'd earn £350k a week. Hear us out on this one. Yes, it's slightly bizarre to suggest we should feel sorry for him because of this. Poor guy, honestly.
But, when you are paid that much, the expectations, demands, and pressures that fall upon your shoulders go through the roof. And, as Arsenal fans will attest to, even prior to Özil's renewal, the jury was already out on his performances.
However, the club's mismanagement left them with their hands tied, and for various reasons they decided to tie Özil down to a new long-term deal. There might just be a hint of regret at sanctioning such an extortionate outlay. Since then, his contribution to the club has been as far away as you'd fear from a player that is paid £350k week in, week out.
The deal should never have been on the table.
July 2018 - International Retirement, Racist Abuse & Germany's Scapegoat
Why, and how did the drama of Özil's international retirement unfold?
Well, Özil felt considerably aggrieved that he was made the German national team's scapegoat after the disappointment of their early exit from the 2018 World Cup. The whole team underperformed significantly, yet it was Özil, the record five-time German Player of the Year and World Cup-winner, who bore the brunt of the criticism.
But it went further than that. Özil, as he explained in a series of unprecedented Instagram posts, accused the president of the German DFB of discriminating against his Turkish origins in the World Cup fallout. Prior to the tournament, Özil was pictured with the Turkish president, which triggered a unsavoury political debate which fuelled undeserved, and discriminatory abuse levelled at Özil.
He felt his ties to the German national side had been severed beyond repair, and Özil announced his retirement after making almost 100 caps for the nation he opted to represent in 2006. So, a bit of a bitter pill to swallow.
July 2019 - Target of Attempted Armed Robbery & Security Threats
However, prior to the league's first round of fixtures, Özil, his wife, and Sead Kolasniac were targeted by a pair of armed robbers. Not only that, but he and his wife, pregnant at the time, received several further threats outside their north London home.
What happened? Well, eventually the men responsible were arrested and jailed. However, it derailed Özil's promising pre-season, forced him to miss Arsenal's opening games, and he soon found himself sidelined by Emery.
December 2019 - Political Conflict with China Over Uighur Muslims
The German was at the centre of yet another media scandal. His issue of support resulted in his removal from the Chinese internet, and brought with it a familiar polarisation of opinion towards Özil's actions.
It didn't help when Arsenal distanced themselves from Özil's comments - they were more concerned with maintaining the healthy economic ties with China, and Özil's freedom of speech could not jeopardise that.
April 2020 - Pay Cut Refusal Sparks Unjust Criticism
219 operations are already done, but there’s still many more to come going forward! As my wife Amine and I announced before our wedding in June 2019, we're covering the costs of another 1,000 life-changing surgeries for children in need around the world. 1/3 pic.twitter.com/HSY8rdiogp— Mesut Özil (@MesutOzil1088) December 24, 2019
Let's be clear; We aren't encouraging sympathy towards Mesut Özil because he's financially hard-done-by. There are many of us who face far more precarious circumstances than facing a 12.5% cut on a £350k weekly wage.
But, before we all go crazy (too late, it's already happened), Özil didn't reject the club's wage-cut proposal outright. He felt the club had conducted communications insufficiently, and required further information as to how his agreement would benefit proceedings.
It didn't stop the media's frenzy over an incomplete story that ensued - the reaction the news triggered was ludicrous, given it then emerged Özil was in willing to take a considerably greater pay cut if the club provided further clarity.
For a man who is well-renowned for his generosity, and annual £2m charity donation, it's unlikely he's unwilling to contribute to the cause. But, the initial criticism the German received went to show how quickly Özil is judged. This particular stick to beat Özil with is far from deserved.
Source : 90min