In the end, Gareth Bale’s protracted move to Real Madrid went through. Announced on the penultimate day of the summer transfer window, the Welshman was presented to thirty thousand-plus fans at the Santiago Bernabeu on deadline day itself. He had finally realised his boyhood dream of joining Real Madrid, and club president Florentino Perez had yet again treated the supporters to another “Galactico”, for a world-record fee of €100m.
Yet as Bale was basking in the beautiful Madrid weather, numerous voices in the crowd were expressing their anger at Perez for allowing star man Mesut Ozil to depart the club, in a move that had left them baffled and constituted a surprise to many of the German’s team-mates.
“He said goodbye to us on Sunday, but I thought he was joking. He's very different, there's no player like him in the world. He makes the difference on the pitch”, explained club right-back Alvaro Arbeloa following the departure of the playmaker, while Ozil’s national team coach Joachim Low could not fully grasp his countryman’s sale to Arsenal. “For me, it's incomprehensible that Real would sell one of their top scorers”, bemoaned the Germany tactician.
It was a move that bemused many, especially as the former Werder Bremen playmaker had expressed his desire to stay at Real Madrid just a few days before his surprise jump to English football.
Few in world football manage to pull the feats of Ozil. Ever since bursting onto the stage at the 2010 World Cup with the Mannschaft, he had established himself as one of the best in the attacking midfielder role. At Real Madrid, his displays caught the eyes of many and fans were quickly excited about the prospect of a creative number 10 that was finally managing to woo them, something not done since the days of the great Zinedine Zidane. A tough task, as the likes of Guti, Wesley Sneijder, Rafael van der Vaart and fellow departing man Kaka all failed at.
The problem for Ozil however was that he often displayed inconsistency. Another issue for the Spanish giants was his inability to adapt to other positions: Deployed on the right side in order to accommodate new signing Isco, his lack of pace and inability to use his right foot left him all too predictable for the opposition.
Ozil knew perfectly well that the arrival of Bale would see him out of the starting line-up. Isco has proven to be Real Madrid’s best signing of the summer, while Bale will surely be granted a starting berth given his massive fee, relegating Ozil to the bench.
Despite starting in his preferred number 10 position in the game against Granada, the German’s reaction to being substituted on the hour mark was far from that of a professional, as he stormed straight into the dressing room and waited inside the team’s bus for the game to end.
An unused substitute in Real Madrid’s next game against Athletic Bilbao, Ozil claimed after becoming a Gunner that his former boss had lost faith in him, but it seems as if the ex-Schalke youth teamer decided to jump ship after sensing that he would be receiving less playing time at Los Blancos, while there was not any hint of the club offering him an improved contract of the type that a key man would merit. Other players that are set to suffer the same reduced playing time fate, such as Angel di Maria, decided to stay on and fight for a place.
To say that the club forced Ozil out might just be a little off mark. Granted, his place was no longer confirmed, but practically no one’s is anymore, as Iker Casillas will testify. However, Perez was happy to offload a player that expressed his desire to leave, for a hefty sum of money – €50m to be exact – and recoup some of the cash he splashed on Bale. Even more so, perhaps the president knew that selling Ozil to Arsenal for such a fee would ease the club’s books and aid them in granting superstar Cristiano Ronaldo his much anticipated contract extension.
Real Madrid will miss their former playmaker. Particularly Ronaldo, who will be hoping to establish a connection with Bale similar to that he had with Ozil, who provided the winger with 27 assists throughout his Bernabeu stay. But with Isco firing on all cylinders, arguably Real Madrid’s top player so far this term, Luka Modric equally comfortable playing in a more advanced role, as well as Bale, Los Merengues do not find themselves short in the assist providing department.
As far as Arsenal are concerned, Arsene Wenger could have really hit the jackpot with the capture of Ozil. At the Gunners, he will be the highest-paid player, as well as their most expensive transfer and the third highest in British history.
With Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla in midfield, Wenger finds himself with a plethora of decisive men in the centre of the park. Were he to have been successful in his attempts to sign Luis Suarez or Gonzalo Higuain earlier in the summer, then his side would have surely been worthy title contenders. As Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho revealed, he made sure to stop Demba Ba’s switch to the Emirates Stadium as it would have made their rivals important aspirers for the Premier League trophy.
The Real Madrid fans will also miss Ozil. They will miss his passing, vision, and the way he and Ronaldo clicked. So will Sergio Ramos, Sami Khedira, Isco, Arbeloa and Ronaldo, who all voiced their displeasure over the exit of their former comrade. But it was Ozil himself who decided to leave the club as Bale was putting his mark on the dotted line. Under new manager Wenger, he could very well start every game, and be the centre of a side that aim to regain some of their lost glory. At Real Madrid, nobody’s role is guaranteed. At Arsenal, Ozil’s is. That, and a fat contract, is what the move boils down to.