Mesut Ozil: Arsenal's biggest signing since Dennis Bergkamp
More cups than Bale, more assists than Fabregas - no wonder papers are purring at Wenger's coup
AND TO THINK just two weeks ago Arsenal were a laughing stock. Beaten 3-1 at home to Aston Villa on the opening day of the season, humiliated in their attempts to sign Luis Suarez from Liverpool and Gonzalo Higuain from Real Madrid, Arsene Wenger's days appeared to be numbered.
"Spend some money!" the fans chanted, but even in their wildest dreams Gooners couldn't have imagined the Nutty Professor would fork out £42.5m for Mesut Ozil.
No one is laughing at Arsenal now, least of all Manchester United, who were once front-runners in the race to sign the 24-year-old German midfielder from Real Madrid.
Nor are the Real fans happy to see the back of Ozil: amid all the acclaim for Gareth Bale at the Bernabeu yesterday there were angry chants of "Don't sell Ozil". But sell him Real did, for half the sum they paid for Gareth Bale.
It's an odd bit of business by the Spanish giants, bringing in a player who's won no silverware in his career, and offloading a player of the same age who's scored the winning goal for Werder Bremen in the 2009 German cup final, helped them reach the UEFA Cup final the same year and, during his time in Madrid, been part of a side that has won a league title and a Spanish cup final.
Then there are Ozil's 47 caps for Germany and his inclusion in UEFA's Team of the Tournament at last year's European Championships.
In short he's been there, he's done it, which is more than can be said for Bale. No wonder, then, that today's newspapers are purring over the prospect of seeing Ozil in action at the Emirates.
In describing the German as "a genuine global A-lister", the The Guardian says Arsenal "have made their most significant foray into the transfer market since they bought Dennis Bergkamp".
The Dutchman's arrival at Highbury in 1995 was the catalyst for a transformation in the way Arsenal played, a style developed by Wenger when he was appointed manager the following year. "Ozil can be that zeitgeist signing for the post-Highbury generation," says the Guardian, describing him as "a player who blends creativity with efficiency".
TheDaily Telegraph agrees, calling Ozil "one of the most technically accomplished players in world football" and highlighting the number of assists he has provided in the past three years for Real Madrid and Germany – 94. In contrast, over the same period, Cesc Fabregas has contributed only 49 assists for Arsenal, Barcelona and Spain.
The Daily Mail says Ozil has not only talent but toughness, a quality developed during his bleak childhood in Gelsenkirchen. "His grandfather on his dad Mustafa's side had arrived from Turkey in 1961 with a single suitcase, not a word of German and a vague promise of a job down the mines," notes the Mail. "It was a challenging start to life in Germany, and it didn't get much easier for his grandson."
Ozil admits he grew up in "a hard area" but football gave him an escape route, first with Schalke O4 and then Werder Bremen. "We didn't solve our problems by fighting but by playing football," Ozil has said in the past.
Arsenal's new star is a shining example of German multiculturalism, a Muslim who before each game spends a few moments in prayer in the dressing room. His roots are important to him, but so is the land of his birth.
"For me, the combination of ethnic backgrounds has worked perfectly," he has said. "My technique and feel for the ball comes from my Turkish side, while the discipline, attitude and give-your-all mentality is the German in me."
For Arsenal fans, it is a match made in heaven. ·