Mesut Ozil has expressed thoughts on his controversial photograph with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan that raised questions about his loyalty to Germany’s national squad ahead of World Cup 2018, and clarified that he has no regrets.
The Arsenal star wrote and insisted in a statement on Twitter that he was loyal to both his Turkish and German origins and he did not intend to make a political statement.
“Like many people, my ancestry traces back to more than one country. Whilst I grew up in Germany, my family background has its roots firmly based in Turkey,” he said.
“I have two hearts, one German and one Turkish.”
The talented midfielder revealed he first came face to face with Erdogan in 2010 after the president and German chancellor Angela Merkel watched a Germany-Turkey match in each other’s company.
“Since then, our paths have crossed a lot of times around the globe,” he said.
The past couple of weeks have given me time to reflect, and time to think over the events of the last few months. Consequently, I want to share my thoughts and feelings about what has happened. pic.twitter.com/WpWrlHxx74
— Mesut Özil (@MesutOzil1088) July 22, 2018
“I’m aware that the picture of us caused a huge response in the German media, and whilst some people may accuse me of lying or being deceitful, the picture we took had no political intentions.”
Ozil had featured in the picture alongside teammate Ilkay Gundogan, and while the timing of it was shortly before Erdogan won re-election in a poll that handed him sweeping new powers – the 29-year-old said it had nothing to do with politics or elections, it was instead about him respecting the highest office of his family’s country.
“My job is a football player and not a politician, and our meeting was not an endorsement of any policies,” Ozil said.
“I get that this may be hard to understand, as in most cultures the political leader cannot be thought of as being separate from the person. But in this case it is different. Whatever the outcome would’ve been in this previous election, or the election before that, I would have still taken the picture.”
Ozil himself had come under criticism after Germany’s shock early exit at the World Cup after a 2-0 loss to South Korea while there was massive outrage over the picture as well.
Team boss Oliver Bierhoff even went to the extent of suggesting that Ozil should have been dropped after his failure to explain himself over the Erdogan picture.
Though Bierhoff did later withdraw from his statement, the furore over the picture didn’t seem to stop on social media.
II / III pic.twitter.com/Jwqv76jkmd
— Mesut Özil (@MesutOzil1088) July 22, 2018
Mbappe was the star of France’s World Cup triumph this summer, winning the tournament’s best young player award after scoring four goals, including one in the final – becoming only the second teenager to score in a World Cup final, after Pele in 1958.
It was in Europe’s premier club competition that Mbappe first served notice of his talent, becoming the first player ever to score in his first four knockout games in the Champions League as he helped Monaco stun Manchester City and then knock out traditional European powerhouses Borussia Dortmund.
They ultimately fell to Juventus – though Mbappe became the youngest Champions League semi-final scorer during the tie against the Italians.
Their performances for Monaco earned both Bakayoko and Mbappe moves away, with Mbappe going to PSG in a transfer that has now smashed the record fee for a teenager.
The Chelsea man, who missed out on selection for France’s squad for the summer, says his former colleague’s rise to stardom should not have come as a surprise to anyone.
“I’m not surprised [at his success], he’s very young but he’s very mature,” Bakayoko told Goal.
“He’s a very intelligent player and I think with his characteristics he’s the best player in the world,” Bakayoko said.
“Don’t forget he’s very young and it’s not easy to play against the older players and to be so quick on the pitch.”
Mbappe won a personal duel with Barcelona talisman Messi during the World Cup, scoring two goals and setting up another by winning a penalty as France beat Argentina 4-3 in a Round of 16 clash.
That game, where he ran Argentina’s defence ragged and tore them apart with his pace and trickery while Messi was kept quiet, fed the narrative that the young Frenchman was truly establishing himself among the world’s elite.
The trajectory of how attacking players are perceived as their careers progress almost always includes the one pivotal phase, where a player has shown enough potential to be considered a future great but faces criticism until they play up to that potential when it matters most.
Real Madrid target Eden Hazard has been through that, delivering full seasons of consistent excellence but still facing questions about how reliable he can be on the biggest stage. This summer, however, he blew those doubts away with a series of starring displays at the World Cup.
Even in Belgium’s last defeat, to France in the semi-final, Hazard was arguably the best player on the pitch, as he often was for the Red Devils. He was thus a shoo-in for top spot in our World Cup attacking midfielder rankings – here’s the full top five.
1. Eden Hazard, Belgium
Eden Hazard was a man transformed at this World Cup. He was consistently Belgium’s best player, and if his side had overcome France in the semi-final he would have rivalled Luka Modric for Golden Ball honours – indeed, he did end up winning the Silver Ball as the tournament’s second-best player.
The Chelsea man was constantly torturing defences, showcasing the dribbling ability that’s always been a trademark and showcasing his elite vision and passing to lead Belgium’s attack. And speaking of leading, who knew Hazard would make such a good captain?
2. Isco, Spain
It’s a shame that Isco‘s tournament ended as early as it did. It’s hard to fault him for Spain’s Round of 16 exit against Spain, when he’d been his team’s best player until that game and led their charge against hosts Russia in that encounter, too.
There’s no doubting that the Real Madrid star is one of the best at his position. One can only wonder if he’s missed out on Spain’s golden era purely by accident of birth, as he’s come along right as Spain have been pulled back into the pack they’d left behind eight years ago.
3. Aleksandr Golovin, Russia
No one gave Russia any hope of making a mark on their home World Cup. But everyone also agreed that if they were to show any sort of progress, it would depend on the performances of their young star.
Well, Golovin delivered, right from the off. His superlative display in the tournament opener gave Russia momentum that carried them all the way to the quarterfinals – and the CSKA Moscow man continued to shine throughout.
4. Philippe Coutinho, Brazil
Philippe Coutinho‘s form at this tournament was so good, it prompted discussions about whether he was a better candidate to be Brazil’s leading star than Neymar. And while such talk may still seem somewhat fanciful, consider his impact: his two goals included a stunning strike in a 1-1 draw and an injury-time goal that was Brazil’s first in a 2-0 win.
Add that to his assist during his side’s thrilling, if ultimately futile, attempt at a comeback from 2-0 down against Belgium in the quarter-final, and it’s safe to say that no player was more crucial to Brazil’s hopes at the tournament.
5. Christian Eriksen, Denmark
Being marked as the single-greatest threat for an underdog team is never easy – just ask Gylfi Sigurdsson and Iceland – but Eriksen handled the responsibility with composure, guiding his side through to the knockout stages.
Ultimately, he was outshone by a transcendent Luka Modric during Denmark’s Round of 16 loss to Croatia, but he left Russia with his head held high.