Mesut Ozil has set an army of tongues wagging and hares running in the last 24 hours after an interview with German publication Kicker was published in which he appeared to link his future with that of Arsene Wenger.
It’s no secret that Mesut is in talks with Arsenal about extending his stay in North London and many believe money will be at the heart of whether the German opts to sign or not.
But, in his interview, which was published on Sunday, Mesut was quoted as saying he was awaiting assurances over Wenger’s future before talks could progress.
He is reported* to have said: “To be completely honest: in my career, it’s never been about money. It is about fun, about trust. The club knows that I am here because of Arsène Wenger above all else, he brought me here and I relish his faith. The club also knows that I want to know what the manager is going to do.”
If that’s not a bombshell statement – at least in relative terms – then I’m not sure what is.
One thing is certain, it is very much a public show of faith and support in Wenger continuing as Arsenal manager. The implication – although not explicit – is that if Wenger leaves in the summer, when his contract expires, Mesut will likely follow him out of the door.
It’s a rare occurrence in modern football to see a player show such steadfastly loyalty to his manager and should, in its simplest form, be applauded. Loyalty is a commodity that I thought went out with East 17 at the end of the 90s but it appears a few last vestiges remain.
I do think, however, it is also a show of faith that will put the German at odds with a significant number of Arsenal fans, who are vociferously against Wenger continuing at the club after his contract expires in the summer. While I don’t think these fans will turn their backs on Mesut, I think it will colour their opinion of him from this moment on. Some will see it as holding the club to ransom, against the will of fans.
Others, who are just as vociferously for Wenger remaining as Arsenal manager, will see it as succour to their cause, ‘if we lose Arsene, we lose one of our world class talents’ they will argue. They wouldn’t be wrong to do so.
In the middle of it all is the club who, if they weren’t walking a tightrope before, most certainly are now. I don’t know whether they have opened talks with Wenger about a new contract, or whether they even plan to, but this is a significant new factor in the decision that is looming large like a storm cloud over the Emirates.
If Mesut and Wenger leave, will Alexis Sanchez follow suit? Will there be such disruption in the make-up of the team that we risk a period of turbulence?
Or will a new manager come in, bringing fresh ideas and new players, while transforming the squad into a well-organised, title-winning machine?
These are all things the board will have to consider and, whatever they decide, it is certain to upset a large portion of fans.
Of course, Mesut can’t be blamed for that, he is simply repaying the faith shown in him by Wenger right back to his days at Werder Bremen. Good on him.
But I get the feeling this interview is the first battle line drawn in what is destined to be a rocky period ahead, particularly if things deteriorate on the pitch.
I have no doubt the comments will be put to Arsene in his weekly press conference and it will be fascinating to see where we go from here.
*The full interview is surprisingly frank and can be found here: http://news.arseblog.com/2017/01/mesut-ozil-kicker-interview-full-transcript/