Have you heard this one before? Mesut Ozil linked with a move to MLS. Of course you have. It’s been floating around for the better part of a year now. Connecting Arsenal’s #10 with moves to DC United or Miami.
So with the transfer window open, Ozil’s massive contract still lingering and MLS’s desire for global names, it’s the perfect combination. Let’s take a look at Mesut’s contract and why it works for all parties involved - MLS, DC United, Arsenal & Ozil himself.
A refresher on Ozil’s contract
Mesut is currently 31 and on a contract with Arsenal that runs through the end of the 2020/21 season. By next summer Ozil will be 32 and coming to a conclusion of his $350,000 a week salary. On salary alone that frees up over $18 million for Arsenal to play with heading into the 2021/22 season - even if the player walks away on a free.
Why it works for MLS
Unless you are unfamiliar with MLS, you probably already know this one. MLS is set to embark on its 25th season, expanding 26 clubs as Miami and Nashville join the league. However, even as teams turn their focus to up-and-coming South American talent, building new stadiums and developing academies, the league as a whole needs stars.
David Beckham ushered in MLS 2.0 and ever since the league has combined global names with a mix of domestic and international talent. The DP spots are ever-revolving - Zlatan leaves & Chicharito arrives. Outside of him, only a handful of players are probably recognizable in Europe (such as Carlos Vela and Nani). The league will continue to need and (over) promote players like this to draw in new and casual fans. While also spending on the Miguel Almiron’s of the world who will eventually be sold on to Europe for a profit.
Why it works for DC United
United won’t be making the move for Ozil during this window, but their need for both playmakers and star attractions is high heading into the 2020 season. Wayne Rooney exited for Derby County and Luciano Acosta left on a free transfer to Liga MX side Atlas FC. The club have picked up winger Edison Flores, as well as proven MLS talents Julian Gressel and Yamil Asad (both originally with Atlanta United).
Those players may very well cover the loss of DC’s big two players on the pitch, but from a marketing standpoint the club lacks a name to draw in new or casual fans. If the club goes without a star name in 2020, as it appears they will, that sets up the desire and finances to bring in a marquee player for 2021. DC United have a new stadium and operate in a top TV market (7th) - someone needs to fill that role. At 32, Ozil could in theory play two to three seasons in MLS, boosting revenue through jersey sales & attendance.
D.C. United had a representative in London on Tuesday for a meeting with players and agents that included @MesutOzil1088, a dream target first reported here last August. It seems Jan. 2021 is the earliest DCU would have a chance at him. #dcu #mls #gunners— Steven Goff (@SoccerInsider) January 22, 2020
Why it works for Arsenal
The Gunners’ roster, for the most part, is full of players in the later stages of their career on massive weekly wages and young talents. It’s quite likely that Ozil, Aubameyang and Lacazette all need to and will leave the club over the next 18 months. It’s hard to see any of them resigning, nor should Arsenal try to keep them on. I’d argue hanging on to Auba during this transition, trying to sell Lacazette this summer, and accepting whatever fate you can with Ozil.
He won’t want to leave, it’s a massive contract and he isn’t likely to see anything near that at his next, and possibly, final club. Whether he leaves this summer, next window or at the end of his contract, his exit improves Arsenal financially and allows them to move forward rebuilding their roster. They need that space, and those wages, to fill in behind him. Emile Smith Rowe is not ready yet and likely needs a year long loan somewhere. Instead, once Arsenal can move Ozil they could target a player like Jack Grealish or Todd Cantwell to take up the #10 role.
Why it works for Ozil
Unless Ozil moves this summer due to a specific manager or ownership group wanting him for marketing, he isn’t moving to a bigger European club as he leaves Arsenal. He isn’t heading back to Germany and the mega deals in China are starting to taper off. Instead, Ozil needs to make his next move about branding. It’s modern football and for a player who has already won the World Cup, he doesn’t have anything left to prove. But he is still a massive global name for soccer.
Mesut has over 21 million followers on Instagram, which is more than Arsenal itself (just under 17 million). Ozil has nearly 25 million followers on Twitter, compared to Arsenal’s 15.5 million. When Zlatan came to MLS he took around a 95% pay cut. Why? Because a lot of that money is recaptured through endorsements and revenue sharing deals with the club and league on merchandise. There isn’t a major star in MLS at the moment from Europe, but with Ozil’s appeal much larger than that - he could quickly rack up new sponsorship deals with brands eager to capitalize on the growing league and sport in America.
Weigh in below with your thoughts. When would you sell Ozil? Are you okay with him walking away on a free? How would he work out in MLS - on the pitch and off it?