The former German international, Mesut Ozil, turns 32 today. There is no doubt that he has had a brilliant career as a footballer. Besides winning a plethora of individual awards, Ozil has also won a few trophies with his clubs. His trophy cabinet includes the World Cup, La Liga, Copa Del Rey and FA Cup. He is rightly regarded as one of the best playmakers of all time.
Ozil commenced his professional career at Schalke before departing to Werder Bremen in January 2008. He became a talisman at the club, especially in 2009-10, scoring 9 goals and assisting 17 goals in the Bundesliga. His fantastic spell at Werder Bremen and in the FIFA World Cup secured him a move to Real Madrid in 2010.
Ozil’s move to Madrid in 2010 did create a lot of hype. Being a young German player who stepped foot into a club of Real Madrid’s size for the first time, it was surely a massive moment for Ozil.
However, his early days in the Spanish capital were not as smooth as he expected. Real Madrid boss, Jose Mourinho, and Ozil were not really on good terms in the beginning. Ozil revealed in his autobiography that Mourinho taunted him by saying, “You think two beautiful passes are enough… you think you’re so good that 50 per cent is enough.” Ozil continued by saying, “He pauses. Stares at me with his dark brown eyes. I stare back. Like two boxers at the stare-down before the first round. He shows no emotion. Just waits for a response from me. How much I hate him right now. And I love Mourinho actually.”
“Oh, are you giving up now? You’re such a coward. What do you want? To creep under the beautiful, warm shower. Shampoo your hair? To be alone? Or do you want to prove to your fellow players, the fans out there, and me, what you can do? You know what, Mesut? Go ahead and cry. You’re such a baby going to take a shower. We do not need you.”Mourinho to Ozil as revealed in the autobiography
Ozil was given a chance at the start of the season due to Kaka’s surgery, and he did really well to settle himself into the squad. Ozil’s first season at Real Madrid turned out to be a very successful one for him. He ended up with 25 assists, the highest for any player in any major European competition that season. So, it is safe to say that Mourinho’s criticism in the beginning paid off very well and Ozil did well to adapt to his style of football.
Ozil went on to finish atop the La Liga assists chart for two consecutive seasons, as he assisted 17 goals in 2011-12 and 26 goals in 2012-13. He was shortlisted for the FIFA Ballon d’Or award and also nominated for UEFA Best Player in Europe award, in which he finished 10th.
How did Ozil flourish in Mourinho’s system?
The Special One used the 4-2-3-1 formation during his time in Madrid. Ozil played as an attacking midfielder behind the striker (Karim Benzema or Gonzalo Higuain). Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria provided width on the left flank and the right flank respectively.
Playing in a ‘number 10 role’, Ozil’s job was to operate between the lines and carry the ball forward to initiate the attack. As Mourinho favoured a direct, counter-attacking system, the wide players used to make a lot of forward runs, and Ronaldo and Di Maria excelled in that department.
In the picture above, we can see Ozil carrying the ball forward after receiving it from a deeper midfielder. He played a through ball to Cristiano Ronaldo (highlighted in a circle) who managed to finish it and score a goal.
Ozil was very well-known for his link-up and chemistry with Ronaldo. The Portuguese player had scored a lot of goals courtesy of Ozil. In fact, Ronaldo was not very happy when Real Madrid sold Ozil to Arsenal in 2013.
“The sale of Ozil is very bad news for me. He was the player who best knew my moves in front of goal…I’m angry about Ozil leaving.”Ronaldo on Ozil’s departure to Arsenal
Ozil’s elite vision and passing accuracy was also a great help to Jose Mourinho’s side. This is what Ozil has always been known for.
In the picture above, Ozil played a world-class through ball to Cristiano Ronaldo who managed to put the ball in the back of the net. This assist is considered to be one of Ozil’s best ever assists. The German magician made it look like a walk in a park.
Ozil could also be deployed as a right-winger where he was used as a wide playmaker. Whilst playing wide, Ozil often used to cross the ball, and he was very good at it.
In the picture above, Ozil, playing wide, delivered a perfect cross as Cristiano Ronaldo (again) scored a brilliant header.
Real Madrid’s attack in all three seasons under Mourinho was absolutely lethal, and Mesut Ozil was a very important part of it. The club scored 102 goals in La Liga 2010-11, 121 goals in 2011-12 (league record) and 103 goals in 2012-13.
Mesut Ozil recorded a grand total of 107 goal contributions (27 goals and 80 assists) in his three seasons at Real Madrid. He won 3 trophies with the club (La Liga, Copa Del Rey and Supercopa).
His highly successful spell at Real Madrid came to an end in 2013 when he joined the English club Arsenal for around £42.5 million.
Ozil might not be considered to be in the Real Madrid legendary category which includes the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Raul and Zinedine Zidane, but he should, undeniably, be considered to be one of the greats.