ISTANBUL: World Cup winner Mesut Ozil announced his retirement from football on Wednesday after an illustrious international career with Germany and club spells with Real Madrid and Arsenal.
The 34-year-old helped Germany to glory in Brazil in 2014 but bitterly quit the international scene after the Germans crashed out of the 2018 tournament in Russia.
“After thoughtful consideration, I’m announcing my immediate retirement from professional football,” the attacking midfielder said.
“I’ve had the privilege to be an international footballer for almost 17 years now and I feel incredibly thankful for the opportunity.
“But in recent weeks and months, having also suffered some injuries, it’s become more and more clear that it’s time to leave the big stage of football.”
Ozil began his senior career with Schalke 04 in Germany, before moving to Werder Bremen.
He was born in the German city of Gelsenkirchen — though of Turkish descent — played on some of football’s biggest stages but also became embroiled in international politics and accusations of racism.
When Germany were knocked out of the 2018 World Cup at the group stage, a wounded Ozil accused the German public of “racist” attacks.
His club career blossomed when his deft passing and vision helped secure his move from the Bundesliga to Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid side in 2010.
He soon led La Liga in assists while helping the Spanish club to their 32nd league title in 2012.
His big-money move to Arsenal in 2013 helped the London club end their FA Cup drought the following year.
In 2014, Ozil started the final as Germany beat Lionel Messi’s Argentina 1-0 in the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro thanks to Mario Goetze’s extra-time goal.
Ozil made 645 appearances for club and country, in which he scored 114 goals and had 222 assists.
Ozil was repeatedly shortlisted for the Ballon d’Or but the later stages of his career were troubled by disputes over playing time and his close personal friendship with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Erdogan was the best man at Ozil’s Istanbul wedding to former Miss Turkey and actress Amine in 2019.
But it was Ozil’s decision to be pictured with Erdogan on the eve of Turkey’s 2018 presidential election that caused particular controversy during that summer’s World Cup.
Erdogan was then unleashing a sweeping political crackdown that followed a failed coup attempt against his government.
Ozil’s picture with the Turkish leader was widely interpreted as his political endorsement of Erdogan in the 2018 election campaign.
He ended his international career before moving to Fenerbahce and most recently Istanbul Basaksehir.
“It has been an amazing journey filled with unforgettable moments and emotions,” he added.
“I want to thank my clubs — Schalke 04, Werder Bremen, Real Madrid, Arsenal FC, Fenerbahce, Basaksehir and the coaches who supported me, plus team-mates who have become friends.”
Published in Dawn, March 23rd, 2023
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