31-year-old German international Mesut Özil is at something of a career crossroads. The playmaker, capped 92 times by his country, has become an outcast at his current club Arsenal in recent months. The appointment of new head coach Mikel Arteta appears to have seen the German sidelined in favour of more ‘value’ options in the Gunners’ squad.
There is no doubt that Özil is something of a luxury player for any team. Despite his undoubted talent, there are too many occasions where he fails to show up when it truly matters. Given that he is Arsenal’s highest wage earner, it’s of little surprise that the club is keen to look to the future and move Özil on.
Özil has yet to make a single first team appearance since the resumption of the English Premier League (EPL) season. He hasn’t even been named in the matchday squads – very much a case of being on the outside looking in. The ‘party line’ reason for Özil’s absence is a back injury. However, Özil has been active on social media of late to suggest that this might not appear to be the case. Arteta has also said that once Özil is prepared to “give his best” he would return to the field.
What are the likely options for Özil?
One possible exit route for Mesut Özil could be across the Atlantic to Major League Soccer (MLS). It’s a league that the German has already said that he would consider playing in “one day” and there are MLS franchises said to be very keen to snap him up as a designated player. One such franchise is DC United, which was the former home of former England icon Wayne Rooney. Last summer, DC United officials met with Özil’s representatives to discuss a future deal. Unfortunately for DC United, Özil looks unlikely to depart North London for Washington until this time next year as he refuses to submit a transfer request. His contract is due to expire next Summer and he is unwilling to take a cut on his current £350,000-a-week salary.
Without Özil, DC United continue to lag well behind as one of the rank outsiders for the upcoming MLS is Back Tournament. The MLS is fast becoming one of the most talked about Major League sports outside the US. Prospective signings like Özil would only further serve to ramp up the interest. Broadcasters like FOX Sports are increasingly providing coverage of the MLS to Europe. Its very own FOX Bet sports betting site has become a popular platform for MLS betting lines among soccer fans in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Colorado, where sports betting has been legalised.
Turkish giants Fenerbahçe are another potential suitor for Özil. According to Fotospor, Fenerbahçe is attempting to crowdfund a transfer bid for Özil’s services by asking fans to send one million SMS messages to fund the transfer worth around €3 million. Özil, who is a third-generation Turkish-German, has said before that his “feeling for the ball” is Turkish by nature and a chance to play in the Turkish Süper Lig could also be an intriguing opportunity.
Arsenal legends keen for Özil to leave for the sake of the Gunners’ youngsters
It’s not just the financial aspect of Özil that’s posing an issue for Mikel Arteta and Arsenal, it’s the fact that he is blocking the pathway to the first team for several academy prospects. Martin Keown, part of the Gunners’ ‘Invincibles’ squad, says offloading Özil is vital to “protect” the next generation of midfielders coming through the club. Keown acknowledged that Özil remains “a magnificent talent” but that the “new Arsenal” required players with the desire and work-rate to keep their shape out of possession.
Özil failed to cement himself in the Arsenal squad under former boss, Unai Emery and it’s the same story with Arteta. Both coaches promote work ethic over everything, with everything else a “bonus”, according to Keown. In the MLS, Özil could be given that free role and a licence to roam just how he likes. Orlando City gave Kaká a similar platform to shine in the latter stages of his career and DC United could be just the ticket to prolong Özil’s glittering career.