German World Cup winner Mesut Özil has announced his retirement from football at the age of 34. The 2014 World champion has called it a day at his Turkish club Basaksehir FK with injuries finally taking their toll. He does however leave behind a host of memories and records from a stellar career.
“I’ve had the privilege of being a professional footballer for almost 17 years and I’m incredibly grateful for this opportunity. But in the last few weeks and months, during which I’ve also suffered from a number of injuries, it’s become increasingly clear that it’s time to leave the big stage of football,” Özil wrote via Instagram.
From the Knappenschmiede to the very top
It can’t be denied that at the peak of his career Özil was a world-class player. From making his debut with Schalke as a 17-year-old back in 2006 to his time at Werder Bremen, the midfielder always looked something special and destined for greatness.
He was capped by Germany for the first time in February 2009 and was a key member of the U21 side that won the European Championships that same year. Following his displays at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, where he was an ever-present for Germany in their run to the semi-finals, he was signed by Real Madrid for €18 million. With the Spanish giants he twice finished as the leading assist provider in La Liga. Since January 2001 only three players from Europe’s top leagues have assisted more goals than Özil: Lionel Messi, Thomas Müller and Cristiano Ronaldo- esteemed company indeed!
Arsenal then paid €47 million to take him to the Premier League where he won four FA Cups playing 254 games for the Gunners scoring 44 goal and providing 79 assists. Özil’s peak came with Germany’s World Cup triumph in Brazil and he also played at the next finals tournament in Russia, but this was to be his national team finale.
He was one of the players made a scapegoat for Germany’s failure and his close relationship with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan didn’t help matters. His German career was marred somewhat in the end with accusations of racism (I’m German when we win, and Turkish when we lose).
His languid playing style also finally led to his exit from Arsenal, although the club were in decline for reasons other than Özil’s attitude on the pitch. He moved to Turkey and had spells with Fenerbahce and Basaksehir.
A persistent back problem, put him out of action for several months leading to the decision to end his playing career. “It was a fantastic journey full of unforgettable moments and emotions. I would like to thank my clubs – Schalke 04, Werder Bremen, Real Madrid, Arsenal FC, Fenerbahce, Basaksehir – and the coaches who have supported me and my teammates who have become friends.
“Special thanks go to my family members and my closest friends. You have been with me on my journey from day one and have given me so much love and support through the good times and the bad. Thank you to all my fans who have shown me so much love no matter what the circumstances and no matter what club I played for.”
At times Özil could be a divisive figure with genius mixed in with accusations of not putting in 100% all the time. There can however be little doubt as to the massive talent he possessed and few German footballers enjoy the kind of footballing journey he went on.
Aufwiedersehen Mesut Özil.