London – Gareth Bale has not even trained with his new teammates following his world-record £86million move, but already trouble is brewing in the Real Madrid dressing room.
The bond Mesut Ozil shared with his Real teammates was obvious on Wednesday as a series of players voiced their support for the man Bale will replace – not least Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Portuguese superstar is reported to be upset at the loss of Ozil, who was also lauded by Alvaro Arbeloa, Isco and even Barcelona rival Cesc Fabregas.
Germany head coach Joachim Loew expressed his “incomprehension” at the decision.
Bale was even told by Real boss Carlo Ancelotti’s assistant, Englishman Paul Clement, he would have to fight for his place.
Bale may have called Ronaldo “the boss” but reports in Spain suggested that had not placated the Portugal forward. Newspaper AS said he told his national teammates: “The sale of Ozil is bad news for me. He was the player who best knew my moves in front of goal. I’m angry about Ozil leaving.”
Isco told Marca Ozil’s sale “surprised” him, while former Liverpool defender Arbeloa said the 24-year-old would be badly missed.
“It’s a shame,” he said. “It’s a big loss to the dressing room, on a footballing level and on a personal level. There’s no player like him. He makes the difference on the pitch.”
Daily Mail this week revealed how the deep affection for Ozil united a disjointed Real squad.
The admiration even stretched to Catalonia. Fabregas told a radio station: “I was really surprised by Ozil’s departure. He seemed to me the second-best player at Madrid after Cristiano.”
Loew, who has guided Ozil’s Germany career, said: “It is incomprehensible for me that Real Madrid would sell the player who assisted an unbelievable amount of goals in the last two or three years.
“He is a player who is sensitive and needs to have the trust of the coach and his club. The last few days before his switch, you could tell that the trust maybe wasn’t 100 per cent there any more.’
He told Daily Mail: “Mesut is an intelligent player, he’ll be a great fit for Arsenal. Arsene Wenger’s imagination and creativity will be a great bonus for Mesut’s development.”
The belief that Ozil, already with one wonderful World Cup under his belt, can get even better was echoed by his father, Mustafa.
“Mesut is still not at his top level,” he said. “I’m sure there is 15 to 20 per cent to get out of him and Mr Wenger will help him to do that.
“I would not see the Premier League as tougher than Spain. La Liga teams play twice every week. He is physically prepared for that.
“He can show his skills and help the club to win the Premier League or maybe an international title.”
Madrid assistant coach Clement warned Bale he is not assured of a starting berth.
“There’s a lot of competition for places – nobody will be guaranteed anything,” he said.
Bale told BT Sport how fraught his move felt. “It has been stressful, to say the least,” he said: “I was always confident the move would go through but obviously the chairman, Daniel Levy had to do Tottenham well.
“I just had to be patient and try and believe they would get the deal through.
Ozil’s friend Per Mertesacker and fellow Arsenal defender Bacary Sagna, along with midfielder Tomas Rosicky, are to be offered improved deals.