For Mesut Özil, it was a summer to forget. Except with the UEFA Nations League commencing next week, the whole affair resurfaced.
Uli Hoeness possesses an indefatigable dislike of Özil and is more than willing to play hard and fast with the truth, kicked it all off. He returned to the theme of his compatriot’s World Cup performance this week, claiming Özil is just a brand. A well-marketed one but all style and no substance.
In time-honoured football chairman fashion, he said “Ozil should have been forced to make a statement. But leaving that without explanation was probably the biggest mistake ever,” referring to the German national team. There was no racism involved, according to the eight Bayern Munich players who sat quietly by as someone took the flak for their failings in Russia.
Ilkay Gundogan wasn’t as reticent. He supported Özil’s claims, which carries a damn sight more weight than the Bayern ‘nice guys’, who frankly don’t seem that nice at all. Turning a blind eye to comments or treating them as banter is part of the problem; it empowers the culprits to act without fear of retribution. It’s not banter, it’s racism pure and simple. Forgive my cynicism of Jurgen Löw’s claims nothing like that happened in “his” national team.
Hoeness’ hatred of Özil is deep-seated. One can only assume he has the hump because the midfielder didn’t send him any notes or make any phone calls while he was a prisoner in cell block H at Landesburg. How a man convicted of defrauding the tax authorities of €28.5m is considered a ‘fit and proper person’ to run a football club is beyond me.
The DFB seems to be more of an ‘old boys club’ than English football and that’s saying something. It’s not impressive, either.
Send In The Clowns
Löw’s willingness to conflate issues is part of a concerted attempt to diminish the claims Özil made and deflect blame for his own failings. The racism issue played no part in the woeful team performances from Germany.
The German national team manager ensured everyone knew the midfielder hadn’t spoken to him about retiring and ignored his messages ever since. It was surprising that Löw found the time to speak to the media. His list of apologies to players he’s dropped or never picked must seem never-ending at times.
So, do I think this is the reason for Özil’s under-performance since signing a new deal back in January? No, is the simple answer. I don’t think its helped with his general happiness but his form dipped well before the World Cup, well before the end of last season and hasn’t improved since.
Do I know why? No. I’m won’t speculate on it either. OK, I’m lying on that one. I have and will speculate on the reasons for his dip in form in the future. And right now, as well.
Has a £350k per week deal motivated him? It seems not. Has it made him lazier? I believe the stats in yards run disprove that. So, we have a potentially demotivated but not a lazy player. By any chance is his motivation lacking because of the state of the club? It’s a Hong Kong Phooey moment, where I shout, “Could be…”
I think his malaise is symptomatic of the decline suffered at Arsenal under the final two years of Wenger’s reign. I don’t think he wanted to move away from London but more to the point, the opportunity never arose. He didn’t feel the love.
Cups of Joy Floweth Over
Later today the Carabao Cup draw is made. It’s been moved to the UK in the hope the cock-ups which besieged it last season will be avoided. Some hope.
Tomorrow sees the Europa League draw with the possibility of meeting Winterslag once again. They merged into KRC Genk who are in pot 2 should they finish the job against Brondby tonight. There are some very familiar names in this year’s tournament so what’s the betting we end up in a group with one of Lazio/Milan/Marseille from pot 2? Leipzig from pot 3? Group of Death here we come.