Transfer season is here, and with it comes transfer sagas. This winter’s award for Most Annoying Transfer Saga is already being given to Mesut Özil - granted, it’s only being given by me, and it’s not a real thing, but still, this is gonna be a long month.
We already know that, outside his current injury woes, something’s not right between Özil and Unai Emery. What we don’t know is, well, a few things. We don’t know what the actual problem is, we don’t know whether the problem is solvable or intractable, and we don’t know how long it will be until said problem is resolved, either by force of will (by either side) or by the quality of Özil’s play giving Emery no choice but to start him regularly.
A first step in that journey - or shot across that bow, if you want to view it a bit more confrontationally - was taken today, when Özil’s agent, the very definition of an interested party in any conflict of this nature, said in an interview that
Mesut signed a new contract last January because he saw his future at Arsenal and nothing has changed in his mind
Well, of course it hasn’t! He makes £350,000 a week at Arsenal as long as he’s there. That would provide a tremendous incentive to want to stay put, would it not? There are two possible paths here:
- His agent is sincerely relating the sincere wishes of his client, and reiterating that Özil is happy at Arsenal no matter what happens (“I just want to help the team”)
- His agent is daring Unai Emery and the Arsenal front office to, essentially, play him or sell him
If it’s true that Özil doesn’t want to leave, and I have no reason to believe that it is not, then it would make that second path a much less pleasant one, for either the club or the player.
The ruthlessly capitalist nature of European soccer means that, generally, when you’re paying a guy that much, it’s because he’s proven that he is worth it. That, in turn, means you don’t want that kind of talent sitting on the bench twiddling his thumbs. That, then, means that if you are a team who have a player in that situation, you had better figure out a way to use him, or figure out a way to get him off the books. That’s not an easy sell - there aren’t that many clubs that want to take on a wage of that size.
So is this a case of an agent setting the table for a big fight between club and player? I don’t really know for sure, but if I were an agent, I would think this would be a great way of clarifying what, exactly, Mesut Özil’s Arsenal future actually looks like.