After hearing yet another characteristic professional response from his son Mesut, Mustafa Ozil interrupts one of Real Madrid’s several playmakers to bless us with his own important opinion. “Boy, you’re too modest”, the son of an immigrant miner declares, before Mesut again resorts to merely announcing how even being a part of this great Los Blancos side fills him with joy. For a player as effortlessly impressive as Ozil can often appear on the pitch he is under no illusion that he is a team-player within a footballing institution famed for its stunning alumni of breath-taking individuals. Mustafa, an immensely proud father, can appear a larger than life character who undoubtedly enjoys his son’s success as much as Mesut himself does and has no problem allowing himself to indulge in the finer things in life. “50 percent work, 50 percent leisure” is his philosophy.
Ozil’s grandfather was one of the many thousands of migrant workers to arrive in the Ruhr Valley in the 1960’s, hoping to earn a living for themselves and their families in the coalmines of Western Germany. As a result of such a large scale influx of people Mesut spent his childhood in a culturally diverse Gelsenkirchen, sharing what is now called “Mesut’s ape-cage” (a fenced, uncompromising gravel pitch) with children of Lebanese and Polish descent, as well as Turkish and German youths. Ozil immediately stood out amongst his peers, impressing coaches at his first club DJK Westphalia 04 with his ability to translate his street soccer talents onto the green stage without losing an ounce of his flawless flair. Mustafa, fully aware of the attention his son was attracting from rival coaches and scouts, began hiring multiple agents for his son, certain his genes had created a truly special player.
As Ozil began shining in the Bundesliga, the Turkish Football Federation began attempting to lure the Schalke 04 starlet to play for the country of his ancestors rather than Germany, the nation who moulded Ozil into the potentially world class footballer and who he had represented in underage football throughout his short career. Then Turkey manager Fatih Terim began attempting to publicly charm the player who is arguably the most talented athlete either country has produced over the last twenty years, while the Altintop’s, who like Ozil were raised in Gelsenkirchen, were deployed by the TFF to woo the coveted asset to play for The Crescent Stars. Ultimately Ozil declared for Die Mannschaft, who have in Mesut’s eyes benefitted from the playmaker’s hybrid multicultural makeup which has shaped him as a player, with the man himself stating “My technique and feel for the ball is the Turkish side of my game; the discipline and attitude all come from Germany." Mustafa meanwhile claimed he had no preference for which nation his son would eventually turn up for and left the younger Ozil to decide for himself, although it is likely he was happy at the result due to the publicity a German international receives globally in comparison to that of a Turkish footballer.
During contract negotiations with Schalke Mustafa confidently prophesied that his son would be playing for Real Madrid within three years, just like his (also ethnically diverse) idol Zinedine Zidane. The Royal Blues on the other hand possessed their own doubts, which led to the Ozil’s migrating to the north of Germany to Werder Bremen for the Spring in 2008. The midfielder excelled in Thomas Schaaf’s kamikaze offensive system, consistently producing awe-inspiring performances at the Weserstadion, firstly alongside fellow playmaker Diego where the pair dragged Werder to a UEFA Cup Final as well the DFB Pokal Final (where Mesut scored the winner against Bayer Leverkusen) and then on his own once the Brazilian had departed for Juventus. Internationally Ozil was the star in a German under-21 side who were far superior to any of their rivals in the European Championship in 2009, with the number ten being named man of the match as the German’s swept aside their technically inefficient English counterparts 4-0 in the final.
Arsenal amongst others were interested although after the World Cup in South Africa they were merely a number in a congregation of the world’s biggest clubs eager to acquire one of the standout players of the tournament. Ozil’s movement went undetected by his opponents throughout the competition to devastating effect, with the allegedly inexperienced German roaming in between the lines before accepting the ball and releasing it at the perfect time. As a result of his stunning campaign Ozil fittingly joined one of Europe’s best sides as well as one of the greatest in the game in Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid. Mustafa’s prediction had come true, however despite a personally successful first year in the Spanish capital, where Mesut assisted 25 goals andcontributed to the first trophy of Mourinho’s reign (The Copa Del Rey), his father remained unhappy about his role in the side. “At Barcelona,” Mustafa begins to rave, “there are ten men who work to one purpose: for their playmaker Lionel Messi. Mesut at Real Madrid is a number ten, but the others do not work with him as their focus. Mesut runs between 12 and 14 kilometres a game, collects balls from deep and then distributes them forward. That costs a lot of energy”. In Mustafa’s eyes Mesut is an artist like Van Gogh. Dropping deep to aid the team’s defence is an unnecessary burden to place on his gem, who, if the modern game continues to evolve, will be asked to “wash clothes” next.
The reason why the former nightclub owner dreams of the youngest of his four children being granted the freedom of the Bernabeu is that he has not only invested his emotions into it, but also his money. Ozil Marketing is run by Mustafa with the sole purpose of maximising the earning potential of his famous child. If the term Real Madrid’s Mesut Ozil could be transformed into Mesut Ozil’s Real Madrid the forty-four year old entrepreneur would be set for a windfall of cash. The company itself hires seven people, including two cleaners, a chauffeur and most importantly a media consultant. Despite the fact Mustafa clearly enjoys his luxurious lifestyle he fails to ever stop short of working to add to his wealth. Interviews are often set up where a number of separate journalists are invited to share Mustafa’s (and occasionally his son’s) time in order to give one of Real Madrid’s key players even more public exposure. Mesut’s Dad is in charge of sponsorship issues, often declining offers others would agree to in an instinct in order to push for more. You can’t help but feel that it kills the Turkish born ‘executive’ to hand over fifty percent of his son’s sponsorship income to the club who employ Mesut due to Real Madrid’s policy on individual sponsorship. Whenever the company’s chief isn’t sipping on champagne while attempting to charm swarms of journalists or scoffing contract offers over the phone he is lobbying for Spanish football to be shown on German television so his primed asset can receive maximum exposure in the country which could perhaps contain the biggest proportion of his potential profit.
Regardless of how often Ozil appears on German screens he will remain a role-model to many Germans of ethnically diverse backgrounds. The Bismark born sportsman was awarded a Bambi award to highlight his successful integration into a German society which is constantly in a state of flux. This summer Real Madrid’s biggest transfer signing was the wonderfully talented Croatian Luka Modric, a player four years older than Ozil, but who mirrors many aspects of the German’s game. Modric is a diminutive, mobile footballer who like Ozil has no problem exploring the pitch in search of space he can then use to torture defences. What is less certain however is whether Mourinho plans on using Modric in a deeper role in midfield or further up-field, a position he has proven he can excel in against premium opposition, for example the second half against Italy in Poland and Ukraine during the summer. Introduced at half time at the expense of Ozil against Sevilla last Sunday, Modric now offers genuine competition to the German superstar who has been considered a fixture in this Los Merengues side he arrived from his homeland two seasons ago. While it’s unsure which of the two will start in the battle of the old and new Galacticos at Chamartin this Tuesday it would be the perfect stage for Ozil to stake his claim to a place in the Spanish champions midfield. One Ozil is certain as to who the superior player is. Whether Mesut also believes this however remains to be seen.
A couple of insightful pieces merit a mention on the subject of the wonderful German:
- Kate Connolly's Guardian article on the issues surrounding multiculturalism in modern day Germany. http://bit.ly/cRuTV0
- A translated interview from Welt Am Sonntag with both Ozil's courtesy of Jenny Jenkins. http://bit.ly/nPRpjf