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How will Mesut Ozil be remembered?

Mesut Ozil’s time at Arsenal is coming to an end. But how will the German be remembered once he is gone and will it be an accurate portrayal?

When Mesut Ozil arrived in north London on deadline day 2013, I actually tweeted out the following morning that it felt like a dream. This was Arsenal, breaking their club transfer record, signing a heralded, bonafide, world-class player. This wasn’t the type of signing that the club makes. And yet, here there were, completing an era-defining transfer.

Fast-forward seven years and it has been a turbulent time for Ozil. There have been tremendous highs, including historic seasons and beautiful moments that prove just how brilliant he is. And then there has been controversy, contracts, discussions of commitment, curious illnesses and injuries.

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Such is the range of outcomes of his performance and production, the debate around him is fierce. Everyone leans on particular moments to define him. From his heavenly showing against Leicester and Manchester United to being booed off the Emirates pitch in a 3-0 hammering by Manchester City, Ozil, and those who support him, has experienced the entire range of emotions during his time at Arsenal.

In truth, he is all of these seemingly juxtaposing moments jumbled into one: he is both luxurious and lazy; delightful and derisory; so beautiful and brilliant and yet ultimately so lacking. It is this that creates the confusion and stokes the fire around Ozil. Because, no matter the opinion, plentiful evidence can be found in support of the argument. Ozil has provided it all, each and every way.

He was the man who ended Arsenal’s trophy drought. He was on pace to break Thierry Henry’s assist record, a record that only he and Kevin de Bruyne have come close to in almost 20 years. He was inspirational under Arsene Wenger, frozen out and then ultimately triumphant under Unai Emery, and finally industrious and applied under Mikel Arteta.

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But simultaneously, he was also the man who missed almost a third of the games since he arrived at the club. He has been absent in big matches, is notoriously ill whenever he wants, does not work hard for the team, and, most concerningly, went suspiciously quiet after he signed a bumped a new £350,000 contract.

In recent years, this contract has rightly warped the discussion around Ozil. His detractors have used it as a stick, and for good reason. And yet, it has often acted as a cloud, shrouding his increasingly fleeting brilliance. It is as if every deft touch, inventive assist, or ‘squeezeball’ finish had to deal with the caveat that he was being paid inordinate sums,

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How do you define the tenure of a player of such range? Perhaps, ultimately, Ozil will be remembered as a true artist, someone with such awesome creativity and delicious talent but who always fell short of the true mark. He was enigmatic, effervescent, infuriating, delightful, all rolled into one turbulent ball. How he is remembered, then, is up to the beholder.

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