If there’s one thing Mesut Ozil still adores about football, it’s expressing himself, but there were times when colleagues found even that excessive. A frequent complaint was when the German would have an easy pass on, either in training or in games. Rather than just play it, Ozil would unnecessarily screw the ball so as to put a bit of spin on it, for no reason other than that he enjoyed it.
Many of his younger teammates greatly enjoyed it, too, and were always left marvelling at such exhibitionism. Some senior players gradually grew irritated.
It was one of many differences regarding Ozil that came to define his latter years at the club, and the anecdote almost sums up his Arsenal career: always dazzling and successful in its own way, but sometimes too decorative, with not enough purpose.
Ozil won’t, after so much debate, go down as a figure anywhere close to Dennis Bergkamp. The German instead came to symbolise the third stage of the Arsene Wenger era, an apparent expansion after the post-stadium austerity, but one that only left a lingering sense of wasteful drift. That feeling most of all applies to the sad fact a player with so much talent spent so much time not even playing.
This wasn’t what they spent so much money on, especially with that notorious last contract.
That last day in the 2013 summer window was supposed to be the start of something. It fired the imagination, that naturally involved images of Arsenal competing for the greatest trophies, while playing the greatest football.