“Ozil was born into a Muslim family and raised to be a good man” says Arsenal football player Mesut ‘The Magician’ Ozil. The English Premier League is well aware of him as he has been named German footballer of the year for 2013: there is no doubt about it—Mesut Özil is a star on the rise! He certainly looks like one, with an eye for a pass, perfect vision, and dribbling skills never seen before.There are few players in this world that are as talented, or capable of winning matches on their own in the final third or picking out a player with a pass, as Mesut Ozil. He is often compared with his former teammate and World Cup winning captain, Philipp Lahm and rightly so. While there are numerous world class attacking midfielders in the game today, none is more complete than Özil. His ability to control and dictate matches is something that goes unmatched by anyone in the game today. Mesut Özil is an immensely talented footballer who can break down any defense and pick out a player at will. When you combine this with the fact that he is one of the fairest players in the world who shirks off challenges, it is clear why he has taken the footballing world by storm since switching from Spain to England.
Mesut Özil (German pronunciation: [ˈmeːzut ˈøːzil], Turkish: [meˈsut œˈzil]; born 15 October 1988) is a German professional footballer who plays as an attacking midfielder and is the captain of Turkish Süper Lig club Fenerbahçe. Özil is known for his technical skills, creativity, passing skills, and vision. He can also play as a wide midfielder.
Born and raised in Gelsenkirchen, Özil began his senior club career playing for hometown club Schalke 04, before signing with Werder Bremen in 2008, aged 19. After winning the DFB-Pokal in his first season, his individual performances led to a move to Real Madrid in 2010. There, he helped the club win a La Liga title, and ranked first in league assists for three straight seasons. In 2013, Özil was the subject of a then-club record association football transfer when he signed for Arsenal in a transfer worth up to £42.5 million (€50 million), becoming the most expensive German player ever at the time. In England, he won three FA Cups and helped end Arsenal’s nine-year trophy drought, while recording the second most assists ever (19) in a Premier League season. In 2021, Özil joined Fenerbahçe on a free transfer.
A German international, Özil holds the record for the most German Player of the Year awards (5). He made his senior debut for the Germany national team in 2009 at age 20, and appeared in five major tournaments. He was the top assist provider at the 2010 FIFA World Cup and UEFA Euro 2012, where he helped Germany twice reach the semi-final. Özil helped Germany win the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but retired from international competition in 2018, alleging discrimination and disrespect by the German Football Association (DFB) and the German media.
On 31 January 2008, Özil moved to Werder Bremen for a reported fee of €5 million, signing a contract with the German club until 30 June 2011. Other than Werder Bremen, Hannover 96 and VfB Stuttgart were reportedly interested as well in binding Özil to their respective clubs, however did not want to pay such a high transfer fee. After transferring to Werder Bremen, Özil got the jersey number 11. On 26 April 2008 (30th match day) Özil scored the go-ahead goal in the 33rd minute against Karlsruher SC, to put his team up 2–1. This was Özil’s first Bundesliga goal. He played in twelve games throughout the second half of the season, six times playing in the starting formation, becoming second with Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga at the end of the 2007–08 season.
Although Bremen failed to get going in their 2008–09 Bundesliga season, eventually finishing a disappointing tenth, Özil managed to make a significant impact in most games and came away with a respectable three goals and 15 assists that highlighted his attacking credentials. He helped lead the North German club to the 2009 DFB-Pokal with the winning goal in a 1–0 victory over Bayer Leverkusen in Berlin. He also excelled in Europe where he led Werder Bremen to the final of the last ever UEFA Cup, losing out to Shakhtar Donetsk of Ukraine.
In the 2009–10 season, Özil became the key playmaker of Werder Bremen, stepping into the shoes of Brazilian Diego who had left for Juventus, was named the best player of the first leg of the 2009 Bundesliga season. On 1 May 2010, the 33rd match day, Özil played his 100th Bundesliga game, scoring the 1–0 lead in a 2–0 win against his former club Schalke. Özil went on and led Werder Bremen to become third in the league and again to the DFB-Pokal final, however this time it was lost against Bayern Munich by 0–4. In his second season, Bremen finished a respectable third, with Özil contributing 9 goals and 17 assists in 31 league fixture appearances. During the 2009–10 season, Özil was also declared as the “best player of the first half of the season”.
Due to his performances in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Özil ensured his place among Europe’s top young talents. He was sought by teams like Barcelona, Arsenal and Real Madrid. English striker Wayne Rooney was one of the many admirers Özil had garnered with his performances in the World Cup, and had even asked Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson to sign the German playmaker. There were reports claiming that a deal was struck for a transfer to Barcelona, but Werder Bremen denied the reports and on 17 August 2010, the team announced that they had reached an agreement with Real Madrid for Özil’s transfer. The transfer fee is believed to have been in the region of €15 million. Upon signing, Özil said, “When the offer came in to join Real Madrid, there is no decision to make. Let’s be honest – you don’t refuse this club. I was in no rush to leave Werder Bremen, but this is one club you say yes to. They are an institution, a club with a fantastic history, stadium and squad full of world-class players. The prospect of performing at the Bernabéu is so awesome you jump straight in.”
Özil made his debut on 22 August in a friendly match against Hércules, which Real Madrid won 3–1. His jersey numbers were changed often before the season started. He was given the number 26 in the pre-season and 19 for his debut. But following the transfer of Rafael van der Vaart to Tottenham Hotspur, he was given the vacant 23.
Özil was brought in to back up teammate Kaká, but due to his surgery, Özil obtained a starting role. He then made his La Liga debut for Real Madrid as a substitute for Ángel Di María in the 62nd minute against Mallorca, which Real Madrid drew 0–0.
Özil taking on Daniele Bonera of Milan during the 2010–11 UEFA Champions League
He made his season debut in the Champions League on 15 September. He got his first assist with Real Madrid in the 74th minute against Ajax after he crossed for a Gonzalo Higuaín goal.
He walked off the pitch as a second-half substitute to standing ovations in his first two games as a starter at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. His first goal came in a league match against Deportivo de La Coruña on 3 October 2010, in a 6–1 victory. Özil’s first Champions League goal with Real came in the 14th minute against Milan on 19 October 2010. On 22 December, he made his debut in the Copa del Rey, scoring once in an 8–0 victory over Levante.
He finished the season with 25 assists, the highest for any player in any major European competition that season. Özil’s performances for Real Madrid during his first season were praised by media, fans and players.
Özil is a third-generation Turkish-German, who, in reference to his game, concludes, “My technique and feeling for the ball is the Turkish side to my game. The discipline, attitude and always-give-your-all is the German part.” The first language Özil learned was Turkish, and he attended a preschool populated with students of Turkish immigrants. He later attended school at Gesamtschule Berger Feld in Gelsenkirchen. Özil states his ancestors are ethnic Turks from Devrek. However, there are sources that claim Özil’s ancestors are ethnic Kurds.
Özil is a practising Muslim. He recites from the Quran before his matches. Talking to the Berlin-based daily Der Tagesspiegel, Özil said, “I always do that before I go out [on the pitch]. I pray and my teammates know that they cannot talk to me during this brief period.” He observes fasting during the Islamic month of Ramadan, but he has admitted that: “Because of my job I cannot follow Ramadan properly. I do it only the few days I can, only when I have a free day. But other than that it’s impossible, because you have to drink and eat a lot to stay at peak fitness.” In May 2016, he performed Umrah pilgrimage to Mecca. During a Europa League match in 2018 against Atlético Madrid, an Atlético fan threw a piece of bread at Özil while he was preparing to take a corner. Özil picked up the bread, kissed it, and brought it to his forehead to express gratitude towards the food given to him, a central tenet in Islam. His gesture was later widely applauded throughout the stadium.
In 2010, Özil was awarded the Bambi for being a prime example of successful integration within German society.
Özil started dating singer Mandy Capristo in 2013. The relationship ended in 2014, following reports of Özil being involved with another woman. In 2015, Özil and Capristo appeared together at the Bambi awards ceremony in Berlin. An Instagram photo uploaded by Özil used the hashtag #OziStoIsBack, suggesting that the couple is back together. However, they broke up in 2017 and Özil began dating former Miss Turkey, Amine Gülşe. They married in 2019, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was a witness during the ceremony. In March 2020, the couple confirmed the birth of their first child, a daughter named Eda.
In July 2019, Özil and Arsenal teammate Sead Kolašinac were the victims of an attempted carjacking by a pair of armed masked men. A Metropolitan Police spokesman later said Özil and Kolašinac managed to get away unharmed and travelled to a nearby restaurant in Golders Green, where they were “spoken to by officers”. Footage also circulated on social media which appeared to show Kolašinac chasing off the carjackers. Arsenal commented they reviewed security measures with their players with help from independent experts and the police, which resulted in the pair not being included in Arsenal’s Premier League season opener against Newcastle United on 11 August. Later the same day, two men were arrested and charged with a public order offence after becoming involved in an altercation with security staff outside Özil’s home. Police noted this incident was unrelated to the car-jacking attempt.
Activism and advocacy
In December 2019, Özil went online to publish a poem denouncing the treatment of Uyghurs in China. It was written over a backdrop of the East Turkestan flag and in it, he also criticised Muslim countries for not speaking out about the Xinjiang re-education camps. Arsenal later released a statement distancing itself from the comments. State broadcasters China Central Television and PP Sports responded two days later by removing the match between Arsenal and Manchester City from their schedules, while his likeness was removed from Chinese internet providers and version of eFootball PES 2020. The Chinese Football Association said Ozil’s comments were “unacceptable”. Some have suggested Özil’s eventual omission from the Arsenal squad was related to such criticism. China’s government later stated Özil was “blinded and misled”, and invited him to visit Xinjiang.
In October 2020, he voiced his support for Azerbaijan in the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war, quoting Mustafa Kemal Atatürk on the Azerbaijani–Turkish relations. During his presentation as a Fenerbahçe player, he posed with the Azerbaijani flag.
He announced his support for Palestine in the 2021 Israel–Palestine crisis, also wearing a “Free Palestine” T-shirt along with other Fenerbahçe footballers. In October 2021, Özil teamed with the Football Association (FA) and Football for Peace to launch a development center, located at the University of Bradford, to tackle the disparity of British Asians in association football. Quoting his own multiethnic background, Özil stated a desire to “give [British Asians] an opportunity to be successful on and off the pitch”.