Mesut Ozil had revealed the biggest telling off he has ever received in his career was by Jose Mourinho when the pair were at Real Madrid together.
Despite leading 3-1 at half-time, thanks to goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria, Mourinho was unimpressed with Ozil’s defensive contribution.
While the pair are clearly on good terms now, with Mourinho writing the foreword in Ozil’s autobiography where this story comes from, the Arsenal player has revealed just how Mourinho savaged him for being too soft.
It’s half-time and I’m sitting in the dressing room at Real Madrid. And Jose Mourinho, our manager, is ranting. And ranting. Especially at me.
But I ran my socks off. I played really well. Honestly. I’d admit it if I hadn’t. We were leading 3–1 against Deportivo La Coruna. But instead of praising us, me included, I’m getting another roasting.
OK, I admit, in the last few minutes before the half-time whistle I slackened off a little. Once or twice I just trotted as I ran backwards. I was only on it about 80 or 90 per cent. But I wasn’t playing badly.
‘You think two passes are enough,’ Mourinho screams. ‘You’re too refined to go in for the tackle. You think you’re so good that 50 per cent is enough.’
How I loathe him at this moment! Although in truth I love Jose Mourinho. He alone is the reason why I went to Real Madrid from Werder Bremen in 2010. I didn’t choose the club, I chose him. I wanted to play for him and no one else.
And this is the man who at this very moment is tearing strips off me. Ten minutes of the half-time break are over and Mourinho still isn’t finished. I’ve had enough now. ‘What do you actually want from me?’ I snap back at him.
‘I want you to play as well as you can,’ Mourinho yells. ‘I want you to go into tackles like a man. Do you know what it looks like when you tackle? No? Let me show you.’
Mourinho stands on tiptoes, thrusts his arms down by his sides, purses his lips and minces around the dressing room.
‘That’s how you tackle. Ooh, I mustn’t get hurt. And absolutely mustn’t get dirty,’ he shouts while repeating his Ozil tackle parody.
‘If you’re so great, why don’t you get out there and play yourself?’ I scream now, ripping off my jersey and hurling it at his feet. ‘Here. Put it on. Off you go.’
Mourinho just laughs spitefully. ‘Oh, are you giving up now?’ he asks. ‘What a coward,’ he says harshly, moving to within just a few centimetres of me. ‘What do you want? To crawl under a nice, warm shower? Shampoo your hair? Be on your own? Or do you want to show your team-mates, the fans out there and me what you’re capable of?’
Now Mourinho’s talking very calmly. He’s no longer hot-tempered and loud but controlled, which makes me even madder. How can he compose himself while I’m on the verge of losing it? I’m so p****d off. I’d love to chuck my boots at his head. I want him to stop. To leave me in peace finally.
‘Do you know what, Mesut? Cry if you like! Sob away! You’re such a baby. Go and take a shower. We don’t need you.’
Slowly I get up, slip out of my boots, grab my towel and walk silently past the manager to the showers, without dignifying him with so much as a glance. Instead he lobs one final provocation in my direction. ‘You’re not Zinedine Zidane, you know. No! Never! You’re not even in the same league!’
‘You’re not Zidane!’ Mourinho’s words resound in my head for long afterwards. I’m now on my own in the dressing room. Pepe and Ronaldo score in the second half to make it 5–1 against Deportivo, while I stand in the shower, lost in thought.
I’ve never been b******** like that by a coach before. I’ve never been so shaken in my conviction of what’s right and wrong. What has happened here? Why did Mourinho make me look such a fool? What was he trying to tell me?
That evening, I started posing myself major questions like I’d never done before.