According to a Turkish media report, Mesut Özil ends his football career. The best German footballer of his generation stops with that. The fact that he didn’t become their most successful but their most hated one is largely due to him. A comment.

The German international match on February 11, 2009 is actually known as the last of Torsten Frings’ 79. But that day also saw the debut of someone who would have a lasting impact on German football and lead it to the greatest success of the millennium: Mesut Özil. He reportedly retired on February 3, 2023.

Turkish media report: World champion Mesut Özil ends his football career

Just over a year after his DFB debut, Özil showed what he can do on the world stage at the 2010 World Cup. A year after he became European U21 champion with Manuel Neuer and Jerome Boateng, among others, it was he who shot Germany one round further in the last game of the World Cup preliminary round with an amazing goal against Ghana. After victories against England and Argentina, the young guns from Germany were only stopped in the semifinals by Spain.

One thing was already clear back then: This Özil is incredibly talented. If he can do that, he will go far and possibly lead Germany to titles as well. Because not only fans but also Real Madrid recognized this, the Turkish-born German wore the jersey of the Galactics after the 2010 World Cup.

After a European Championship in 2012, which ended bitterly in the semifinals with regular player Özil, the 2014 World Cup was to be the breakthrough for the golden German generation. Özil, now employed by Arsenal FC, also excelled there. Even if Özil only scored one goal and set up one, it was he who set the pace in the German game, steered the game and was able to dismantle an entire defense with a single pass. Not Kroos, not Schweinsteiger. It was Ozil.

The deserved reward was the world championship title. But even then, rumors swirled about the superstar. Real Madrid wanted to extend the contract, but his father and advisor demanded too much money, which is why he had to leave, it was said in 2013. Özil, whose footballing qualities were undisputed, was also increasingly sidelined at Arsenal.

The reasons were always the same: Özil was too lethargic, didn’t fight and didn’t get up when there were problems. The big problem with these observations: You couldn’t just make them in 2015 or later, you could always do them. The footballer Özil was always a fine spirit, not a fighting pig. If the car was in the dirt, he might be able to help with a brilliant move with the ball, a pass or a goal. With a slide rather not.

But because the otherwise strong performance left a lot to be desired, Özil’s style became more and more the focus. The playmaker’s reaction: he retired and played even worse.

In the national jersey, however, he was further seeded and stormed into the semi-finals with Germany at the 2016 European Championship. But it was over there in the semifinals – and Özil’s star at the DFB also slowly began to decline. He was still a regular player, but he played less and less well there. Then came the 2018 World Cup.

Özil played 90 minutes against Mexico and South Korea – Germany lost exactly those two games and was eliminated in the preliminary round for the first time at a World Cup. However, the topic of the tournament was Özil and not primarily because of his perceived phlegmatic performances, which the statistics (most chances of all World Cup players created per 90 minutes) contradicted in part. He became a “symbol of failure” because of a photo.

On May 13, 2018, Özil and national team colleague Ilkay Gündogan met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Both gave him a jersey and posed for a photo with Erdogan. This caused great criticism in Germany, which Özil and Gündogan met differently. While Gündogan explained himself, Özil remained silent and ended up destroying everything he had done for Germany.

After the preliminary round, for which Özil was made a scapegoat, the criticism continued and Özil was asked by DFB President Reinhard Grindel, among others, to finally speak out. He did on Twitter on July 22, 2018 – and how!

“I will no longer be used as a scapegoat for [Grindel’s] incompetence and his inability to do his job properly. I know that after the photo he wanted me out of the team […], but Joachim Löw and Oliver Bierhoff stood up for me and supported me. In the eyes of Grindel and his supporters, I am a German when we win and an immigrant when we lose,” he wrote.

He also accused Grindel of having a “racist, discriminatory background”, which subsequently led to a debate at the DFB about how to deal with national players with a migration background and about racism in general.

On the other hand, he said less about the photo. It was about “respecting the highest office in the country [of his] family” and not about taking sides. He also resigned from the national team. Löw and Bierhoff found out about this from Twitter. “Hugely disappointed” was the national coach.

Özil’s career was then marked by headlines at FC Arsenal, a short but embarrassing interlude at Fenerbahce Istanbul and a short phase at the Erdogan club Basaksehir Istanbul. In terms of football, he had his best time behind him, he actually only makes headlines off the field.

In terms of sport, what remains of Özil above all is the world championship title and the decisive role he played on the way there. He was the best footballer of this generation, despite Müller, Kroos and Schweinsteiger. An Özil in top form was an absolute superstar – but it didn’t exist as often and for as long as one would wish for a superstar.

But his decline, his behavior and his handling of criticism will also be remembered. His proximity to Erdogan was his undoing, as was his way of playing, when he no longer offered top performances on a regular basis. In the end, Özil became the most hated player of his generation instead of their most successful.