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Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil farce epitomises the club’s baffling off-pitch decisions

It seemed to drag on as long and as painfully as Brexit, but at least Arsenal have finally Got Ozil Done.

Leaving many to ask how the relationship between the two became so toxic?

How did Mesut Ozil ­become so integral to ­almost every storyline and every debate about Arsenal over the past year?

It will go down as an era-defining lesson as bemusing as Alexis Sanchez being put on the same earning power as the Sultan of Brunei.

Not just why the German was given a contract worth £18.2million a year when he was nine months shy of 30.

Not even how the club ­expected him to ­become a more motivated player ­because of his pay rise, with Arsene Wenger bizarrely claiming, when he signed it in January 2018: “You expect that he becomes the leader and takes the responsibility to lead the team to success.”

Mesut Ozil will finally leave Arsenal to join Fenerbahce

Not even why, when the perception was that he didn’t take that responsibility, such a senior player was treated like a leper for nine months. It is how, as he takes a pay cut to head to Fenerbahce, Ozil’s contribution has been so overblown by some that there was a debate, albeit started by a radio pundit, about whether he deserved a statue outside the Emirates.

As talented a player as he is, to argue his contribution to Arsenal’s history is up there with that of Herbert Chapman, Tony Adams, Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp is embarrassing.

I never held the view, aired by a broadsheet ­journalist at the weekend, that the German “became a symbol of what most people think is ­disgusting about ­top-flight football: ­players earning ­obscene wages for doing, literally, nothing”.

If my employer ­suddenly decided they didn’t rate me any more, I’d probably do what Ozil did and keep ­taking my wages while watching Netflix, until something ­better turned up.

If Ozil became a symbol of anything it was the ­economic illiteracy of the club’s recent era, which stopped Arsenal achieving what they had done under the Henrys and Bergkamps.

Ozil has had a truly up-and-down time at Arsenal
Ozil has had a truly up-and-down time at Arsenal

The blame for this toxic saga lies with those who fell over themselves to give 29-year-old Ozil a three-and-a-half year contract worth £63.7m. The ones who gave 32-year-old ­Willian a ­three-year ­contract worth £42m. That’s Willian who has yet to score for Arsenal and has created just one ­assist since the first day of the season and can’t get a game, but who will hang around to pick up every penny of that contract.

The same ones who spent £72m on Pepe, who also ­struggles for game time.

The people who, in the summer of 2016, spent £87m on Granit Xhaka, Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Perez while releasing Serge Gnabry to become a superstar in Germany for £5m.

The same people who, last August, sacked 55 mostly low-paid workers, due to the pandemic, ­claiming to have “looked at every aspect of the club and our expenditure before reaching this point”.

Sackings that saved them £2m a year.

Gunners owner Stan Kroenke is not a popular figure with supporters
Gunners owner Stan Kroenke is not a popular figure with supporters

Weeks later, 31-year-old Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was given a new contract worth up to £60m over three years. Don’t be surprised if there are Ozil-esque problems a year or so down the line.

The blame for the ugly Ozil saga lies not with the player, but with weak ­businessmen who allowed Wenger to stay on too long when his judgement had gone and ­carried on getting their sums almost as badly wrong as their priorities.

Businessmen, who this month took out an ­emergency £120m loan from the Bank of England to help them through the ­pandemic, yet whose owner Stan Kroenke is worth more than £6billion.

Maybe Stan should give himself a statue.




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