London – At one point on Tuesday Mesut Ozil had to hold his hand above his eyes and squint, so searing was the light shining on him.
Rays from the sun above Munich during a training session with Germany were the cause of his discomfort rather than the glare brought by a £42.5million price tag, but you sense the shy man from Gelsenkirchen would have preferred to play in the shadows either way.
Ozil couldn’t hide from the headlines in his homeland. His price was not only the most ever paid by Arsenal, but also for a German national.
Yet rather than delight that a supreme talent was being recognised with a record cheque, the reaction in Bavaria bordered on disgust.
“Bullied to Arsenal,” was how Bild, the popular tabloid, put it. Broadsheet Die Welt reasoned the arrival of Gareth Bale ensured Ozil must “escape”. “Auf der Flucht,” read the headline, meaning, “On the run”.
Words from Oliver Bierhoff, Germany’s general manager, and Sami Khedira, Ozil’s former teammate in Madrid, only emphasised the sense that the move came because Madrid forced him out. The player himself said as much.
“At the weekend, I was certain that I would stay at Real,” Ozil said. “But afterwards I realised I did not have the faith from the coach. I am a player who needs this faith and that is what I have from Arsenal.”
A phone call from Arsene Wenger sealed the deal. Ozil is in the Germany squad to face Austria in a World Cup qualifier on Friday and with Brazil less than a year away playing time is essential.
When Carlo Ancelotti decided his preference for Angel di Maria, Bierhoff realised it was in Germany’s interests that Ozil switch to a club where he would be a guaranteed starter.
“It’s not good if you feel your team doesn’t stand behind you a hundred per cent,” Bierhoff said. “He will be with a great manager who knows how to work with young players.”
Khedira questioned Real’s wisdom in allowing his friend to leave. “Personally, I regret Mesut’s step,” he said. “Mesut is always a player who can make the difference and always did.”
There was similar support from Sergio Ramos, who said: “If it was up to me Ozil would have been the last person to leave.”
German journalists wondered why Bale, who in their minds has done little outside England with Tottenham or Wales, would dislodge someone the same age who starred at the World Cup three years ago and has Champions League experience. Theo Walcott said it was a “fantastic signing” but while delighted at Ozil’s move, Arsenal were fuming after Chelsea made a U-turn on a deal for Demba Ba.
Wenger thought a deal to sign the striker on a season’s loan was in place on Monday night after hours of negotiations between the clubs. After initially agreeing a deal, Emirates chiefs were baffled as Chelsea pulled the plug on it late in the day because they did not want to strengthen a direct rival.
It is understood Ba’s move across London was so far advanced that Arsenal had arranged the former Newcastle forward’s medical.
The lack of striking options was made clearer with the news that Lukas Podolski could miss the rest of the year with a hamstring tear. Missing out on Ba and Podolski’s injury may mean Nicklas Bendtner is brought in from the cold and the forward, who came close to leaving this summer, issued a statement pledging his commitment.
The Dane said: “I want to assure Arsenal fans I will give everything to what I believe will be a successful season for the club.”