England had no idea what had hit them. They knew it would be tough but the little kid that would later be nicknamed ‘Nemo’ had destroyed them. So too did all his team-mates. As Germany hoisted the Under 21 European Championship trophy, Germans thought they had something special coming in the near future and in the middle of it all was then-future Real Madrid star and current Manchester United target Mesut Özil, who was already being dubbed the next ‘Zidane’.
All the top clubs were scouting the Germany international, but some were wary as they had seen the stars of this tournament crash and burn before but the little maestro was keen to prove he was up to the task. His Coach from the Under 21’s had no worries for the left footer saying, ‘we praise Wayne Rooney to the heavens, likewise Ronaldo or Messi. But we have our own Messi. Our Messi is Özil.’ High praise indeed and the player was setting the Bundesliga alight with some fine performances.
Eventually Los Blancos came knocking and for a fee believed to be in the region of €15m he was evidence of the La Liga giants’ new policy of investing in potential talent but what surprised many was that the midfielder started to show his talent from the off and that was showing former footballer of the year Kaka how to do it. He still had much to learn, but there are those who saw an immediate improvement from the first day.
‘I think Özil has improved steadily since joining Real Madrid. His passing skills improved and he benefited from his team mates who are on a different level compared to Bremen’s players’ says Bundesliga fanatic writer Florian Tiemann. Jose Mourinho was quick too to praise the pass master by saying ‘Özil is unique. There is no copy of him – not even a bad copy.’
So what makes him unique? He is a slight player, but he is not easily bullied off the ball. He has a great left foot and he has an almost Xavi-esque quality of being able to find a team mate even if he is in a difficult situation. He is great at dead ball situations, no more evidence needed than in Real Madrid’s home Champions League game against German side Borussia Dortmund when he saved them a point with a goal in the dying minutes of the game. He is always involved and his runs are timed to perfection.
In 2011 he had the most assists in Europe, in 2012 in La Liga, in the World Cup he had three and in 43 international games for Germany he has scored 14 times. Mourinho said after one thrilling performance ‘He is the best number 10 in the world. Everyone loves him and sees a bit of Luis Figo and Zinedine Zidane in him. He will make history at Real Madrid’ So why is he wanting to leave then?
This season might be one to forget for Real Madrid. The reason for the inclusion of ‘might’ is because they are still in the Champions League. Yet, Mourinho is not happy with his players and the one who has faced the bulk of his disapproval is Özil. In October against Deportivo de la Coruña, Mourinho was seen screaming at the midfielder whose form had dipped. At half time the German was taken off and the Special One, so furious with his display, stormed out of the dressing room four minutes before he was due to and sat on the bench and waited for his players.
‘He is still a great player with a lot of quality and one that I like. Now he needs to improve and reach his normal level’ said the Special One afterwards but not everyone was happy with his decision. Sergio Ramos put Özil’s shirt under his own as a sign of consolidation with his team-mate. Recently after scoring a goal he went to celebrate with the assist maker, Özil, but this hasn’t stopped Mourinho who has taken the playmaker off on other occasions at half time, most recently last weekend at Real Betis and made him the fall guy.
So would he hack it in the Premier League and who could possibly get him? Well the answer is yes. Most will point out that the Spanish League is not as physical as England but the German league is no pushover. He has shown for his national side that he can stand up to physical opponents if further evidence was needed. His most likely destination would be Manchester United.
Manchester United fans have been saying for a while that they need a creative central midfielder and Özil fits the bill. He would be perfect to play just behind Rooney and Van Persie. He could create a very fruitful supply link between the midfield and the forwards - just remember that Real Madrid scored over 100 league goals last season and the German wizard was involved in most of them.
He can also be played out on the left although he prefers the centre. Ferguson may just allow him a free role, allowing him to roam wherever he wants as long as he gets results. At Bremen he had this role and they reaped the rewards, so Manchester United may be keen to try this too.
It is said that the German is happy in Madrid but is not content with his recent treatment. His team-mates love him but the offer to join a team like Manchester United doesn’t come around too often. After showing how well he adapted to life in Spain, no one has any doubts that he could take to England as easily.