SINGAPORE – Arsenal boss Unai Emery said Mesut Ozil has nothing but respect from his team-mates after his decision to quit Germany's national team claiming racism sparked uproar in his home country.
Emery on Wednesday said Arsenal were taking pains to make sure Ozil, 29, feels comfortable at the club as controversy rages in Germany over his acrimonious walk-out following the World Cup in Russia.
“We want to help all the players and Mesut to feel here with us like he's at home, like a family,” Emery, who is in his first weeks as Arsenal coach, said during a pre-season visit to Singapore. “We are every player's family and for him to work every day, to work well with his team-mates, is good for us... I'm very happy with him. I'm looking at every player and I think Mesut, he has here the respect of every player.”
Ozil, who was born in Germany to Turkish-origin parents, said he felt “racism and disrespect” - pointing the finger at German football authorities - in his no-holds-barred statement released over the weekend.
The 2014 World Cup-winner said he was unfairly maligned over Germany's group-stage exit in Russia, after some media highlighted a pre-tournament photo with Turkey's strongman President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose,” Ozil wrote, adding: “Certain German newspapers are using my background and photo with President Erdogan as right-wing propaganda to further their political cause.”
Germany's football federation swiftly denied the allegation of racism, while Erdogan called Ozil to praise his decision - which follows a resurgence of the German far right.
Ozil declined to comment on Wednesday as he took part in a training session at a private school in Singapore ahead of Thursday's friendly against Atletico Madrid.
“For him it's one thing with the national team and another with us,” Emery said. “Normality is the best thing for him and I am sure he's going to do a big season with us this year... it's very, very personal and here I want to help him. Everybody at the club is thinking like me to help him and to feel (good) here and express his quality with us.”
Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech also said the players were keen to support Ozil, who smashed the club's transfer record when he moved from Real Madrid in 2013.
“What happened between him and the national team is his private matter so this is not an issue for us,” said Cech.
“It's something which is unfortunate for him but we will try to do everything so that he feels good, that he trains well so he feels good for the season, because he's one of the key players.”
Agence France-Presse (AFP)