When Mesut Ozil, who had been linked to United, amongst other clubs, signed for Real Madrid for £16.6m, our fans wanted to know what on earth was going on. Ozil cost less than Chris Smalling and Bébé, who were unveiled yesterday, leaving fans to question why Sir Alex Ferguson hadn’t tapped in to this value in the market, which he has been harping on about.
Whilst these two lads might turn out to be great and other new signing Javier Hernandez certainly looks to have it all, there’s no denying that Ozil is the more established and proven player. Whilst he was unknown to many before the World Cup, he tallied 17 assists last season, more than any other player in the Bundesliga. In fact, in 31 games in Germany, he scored or assisted a total of 26 goals. Then he grabbed the attention of the world in the World Cup when putting on several impressive displays and showing a maturity beyond his years. He’s proven himself on the biggest stage, domestically and internationally, and at £16.6m is a total bargain, particularly given he’s only 21-years-old.
I know I’m not alone in being sick to death of hearing about Ozil though and I promise this is the last you’ll hear from me on it (probably), but I think it’s important we can form some sort of conclusion on this.
Sir Alex Ferguson went to Craven Cottage to watch Ozil and after the game he spoke to Werder Bremen representatives. This is a certainty. This shows that the manager was interested in signing the player.
So why didn’t we sign him? The first option is that we didn’t stump up enough cash, which is a theory that fits in nicely with our anti-Glazer stance. However, whilst I’m not one to defend them, I don’t think that is the case. We’ve spent almost £50m on unknowns over the past year so if Ferguson went down to watch Ozil, he will have done it with the understanding there will have been money available to spend.
There have been no reports of United having a bid for Ozil turned down, which means either the press didn’t get wind of it, or, we never put a bid in.
When Ferguson was asked about going to Craven Cottage, all media sources who were present noted the flustered nature of the manager, with him claiming he “didn’t know” if we were interested in Ozil, before making a sharp exit. He also repeated that there were several clubs interested.
My educated guess would be we talked to Bremen to see how cheap they could get him but essentially, the player had his head set on elsewhere. Whether we like it or not, players on the continent all too often prefer a move to Barcelona or Real Madrid than to United. There could be several reasons for this, from perceived size of the club (based on trophies won), nicer climate, lower taxes and therefore larger salaries, less tough league and style of play, chances of future success, reputation etc.
Whilst a couple of months ago Ozil mentioned ‘dream moves’ to United or Chelsea, he also mentioned Real Madrid, Barcelona and playing in La Liga. But earlier in the year he was claiming to be a Barcelona fan and mentioned Bayern Munich as a possibility for the future.
October 14th 2009: “I have been a fan of Barcelona ever since I was a little boy. I can’t describe what it is, but the team just fascinates me. They have always had world-class players such as Rivaldo and Figo in their team. Nevertheless, Barcelona are not an option for me at the moment. Wearing the Barca jersey is a dream, but I still have a lot to learn and I have to work hard before I’m ready for it. Bayern Munich is not an option for me. I don’t even think about something like that at the moment.”
July 2nd 2010: “I want to give a lot of thought to. To the top players the Premier League is attractive. You look at what Manchester United and Chelsea have achieved over the last five years and you see it would be easy to be successful at two clubs like that. I see what Michael Ballack achieved at Chelsea and the quality of players he played with and the temptation becomes obvious. Trophies are what matters to me. There are two teams in England always at the top and of course that’s attractive. But the same is true for La Liga. They’re the strongest leagues in the world.”
July 11th 2010: “Werder Bremen want me to fulfil the contract and so do I. I have always said that I want to fulfil my contract, that is important to me.”
August 1st 2010: “There are four or five clubs in Europe that you would have to say as a player would be a dream to play for. Manchester United and Chelsea are very much two of them. When you are looking at moving clubs it’s impossible not to pay attention to the Premier League and even more impossible not to pay attention to Manchester United and Chelsea. I am a winner and, when I am looking for a new club, I simply look at where I can be the most successful and where I can win the most trophies. If you look at the recent history of Manchester United and Chelsea then it’s clear that a player can be very successful there. Of course clubs like Real Madrid and Barcelona are of huge interest and the Premier League’s top two clubs are of serious interest to me when the time comes.”
August 15th 2010 (after learning Werder Bremen had turned down an offer from Real Madrid): “When you have such an opportunity like this, then you want to take it. It is any footballer’s dream to play for the biggest teams in Europe.”
August 17th 2010: Ozil signs for Real Madrid.
August 18th 2010: “I always wanted to play for the best team in the world, and Real Madrid is it. Nothing had been decided before yesterday and I can honestly say I am glad this has had a happy ending. I only aspire to make progress at Real Madrid. This is a great challenge for me. I’ve always concentrated hard and I like to work hard. I stepped on fifth gear and reached the club for which I wanted to play. Real Madrid is the best club in the world. I discussed several options with my advisors, but I wanted to come here because I wanted to work with Mourinho, the best coach in the world. I spoke with him and he convinced me to come. What we said will remain between us, but he is the greatest reason for which I’m here today. The best teams play in Spain and the best in the world is Real Madrid.”
Essentially, this lad wanted to join a top European club and like too many other players, fancied La Liga over the Premiership. He fancied himself as a Real Madrid player, just like Karim Benzema, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo. These aren’t players who grew up in Spain supporting Real, but players who fancy themselves a bit and fancy the status that comes with being a Real Madrid player. Fair enough. I think the stories of top quality players Robben, Kaka, Benzema, Sneijder etc. should set alarm bells ringing for any players tempted to go there, but if you fancy yourself a bit, you won’t be told. The failure of those top quality players is their business, I’ve got what it takes to make it here.
However, as far as value in the market goes, if Real Madrid can sign Khedira and Ozil for less than £30m, then clearly there is some room for manoeuvre here. There is some value in the market. However, we may well be fighting a losing battle.
“I would not have allowed any other club than Real Madrid to get in touch with me over a transfer,” Khedira said before making the move, despite reported interested from United and Arsenal.
We’re not Real Madrid and if players have their heart set on going there, then there’s nothing we can do about it. We won’t pay the biggest wages in England or Europe and if players are more concerned about earning money at The Project than playing for United, then there’s nothing we can do about it.
How wise have we been in the transfer market? Only time was tell, but if we’re honest with ourselves, there was no way Ozil was going to come here once Real Madrid showed interest. Frustrating as it may be, that’s the way some players are wired up.
For every foreign player like Patrice Evra and Javier Hernandez who join us, there are plenty more who want to be a part of Real Madrid’s history, and sadly, Ozil is one of them. He’s no Pele though, so time to forget all him and focus on the players we do have who do want to be here. It’s very likely Ozil will go the same way as plenty of other talented players who have ‘dreamed’ of Real Madrid over recent years, but really, that has nothing to do with us.
Onwards and upwards.