Mesut Ozil is among the biggest draws in world football so one might find it hard to believe that even the German can be starstruck, but that’s exactly what happened when the Arsenal midfielder met his idol Zinedine Zidane for the first time.
Ozil, who is among the best-paid players at Arsenal, was a Real Madrid player at the time when he crossed paths with the iconic French midfielder.
“I was really nervous, happy and thankful as well because Madrid was such a huge club,” the mercurial midfielder told Arsenal Player.
The German midfielder spent three plus seasons at the Santiago Bernabeu, where he earned the moniker ‘Assist King’, before moving to the Emirates for a €50 million fee.
“I had dreamed of playing there because my idol, Zinedine Zidane, played for them as well.
Ozil called time on his international career quite abruptly after Germany’s disastrous 2018 FIFA World Cup campaign, but it was his three-part statement that has divided opinion in his homeland.
“My first day over there with (Jose) Mourinho and all my team-mates, of course when you’re a new player in the dressing room you’re a bit quiet and nervous because big players were there at the big club. I was especially nervous when I met Zinedine Zidane, that was the highlight for me.
Citing racism and hypocritical criticism due to his Turkish roots, Ozil kicked up a storm as he bid adieu to Die Mannschaft after having played a crucial role in the side’s triumph at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
“It was in the dressing room. Mourinho took him to the first team as his assistant coach. He was in the dressing room, so of course my hands were sweating. You want to try to speak to him, but he was actually really relaxed as a person. He was really calm and I really enjoyed my first meeting with him.
There’s been talk of a rift between new Arsenal boss Unai Emery and Ozil as the German was conspicuous from the side’s Matchday squad for their clash against West Ham United on August 25.
Emery insisted he hadn’t dropped the player, rather was forced to rest him as he was sick, but speculation continues to mount that perhaps the German will not be a good fit in the Spanish tactician’s system.
Ozil did return to the starting XI for the Gunners’ win over Cardiff City on the weekend, but it remains to be seen if he will get plenty of minutes under Emery.
“Of course I had a lot things in my head. I was thinking about the time when I was young with my friends, I would buy his shirt and play as him in the cage where I was brought up,” Ozil revealed.
Zidane, who stepped down from the post of Real Madrid manager at the end of last season after leading the club to an unprecedented hat-trick of UEFA Champions League title, also wore the No.10 jersey for most parts of his career.
“The feeling was very positive but still I was only a young player at 20 or 21, something like that. My team-mates know that I’m a really calm person in the dressing room who doesn’t speak too much, just do my work and relax, so I was just nervous to meet him.”
Ozil is seen as the last of his kind, a technically gifted player but one perhaps lacking in the tremendous work-rate the modern game demands.