Why Mesut Ozil Has Little Choice But to Sign New Arsenal Contract

Arsenal duo Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil find themselves in situations that are both similar and yet quite different all at the same time.

Each man has less than eight months left on his Gunners contract and has failed to agree a new one with the club after prolonged and ultimately fruitless negotiations. Both Sanchez and Ozil, already the top paid players at Arsenal on weekly wages of around £140,000, are said to want enormous pay rises to commit, pay rises the club is unprepared to, or simply cannot give.

In the case of Sanchez, one gets the impression he has deliberately priced himself out of a new Arsenal contract because frustration over a lack of competitiveness at the elite level has got the better of him. There is serious interest in the Chilean from huge clubs and he knows it.

And this would appear to be where the similarities end. Sanchez came within hours of joining Manchester City in a £60m deal on transfer deadline day in August. Before that, there was said to be strong interest from Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus.

The offer from Manchester seems as though it will stand. City will happily pay a sensible for him when the transfer window re-opens in January, or wait until 1st July when he will formally become a free agent and take him then. For the player, it will mean a reunion with Pep Guardiola, the coach he previously worked with at Barcelona.

Even if City re-assess their situation and opt against bringing Sanchez on board due to the perhaps unexpected immediate success of much younger players like Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus at the top end of the pitch, one would be hard pressed to argue there won’t be at least one top club prepared to make the Chilean a very wealthy man.

Ozil doesn’t have the luxury of a club that is desperate for his services, certainly not an elite one. His innate technical quality has never been in doubt, but a languid and often lazy style of play – it is hard to name another player who looks less interested when his team doesn’t have possession – isn’t exactly an attractive quality that clubs and coaches look for in a player.

Transfer gossip has emerged suggesting that Manchester United are keen. We are now in the realm of ‘once a rumoured target, always a target’, meaning that every possible update in Ozil’s uncertain Arsenal future will be forcibly related to United by the overzealous media.

Dig beneath the surface and there seems little actual substance to the rumours linking Ozil to Old Trafford. The stories reek of ‘information’ being planted by an agent or advisor designed to create hype around their client, a tactic that has become depressingly common in modern football. Soon the rumours will become self-feeding.

Supporters of the United link would point to Ozil’s successful history with Jose Mourinho. The German was formerly a star of Mourinho’s record breaking La Liga title winning Real Madrid side in 2011/12 and could renew that alliance.

In reality, that past means very little. Ozil suited Spanish football in a way he doesn’t suit English football, with Mourinho the ultimate pragmatist. He saw that his playmaker was key in Spain, but that is far less the case in England. He is a manager who will ignore the past if his present requires it – look at the contrast between his handling of Juan Mata at different clubs.

It has been rumoured in recent months that Ozil would be willing to join Real Madrid or Barcelona. That is the player’s ideal move, but a target that isn’t realistic. He would struggle to fit into the Real team these days after the emergence of Marco Asensio and Isco and key attacking players, while Barcelona are famously short on cash and wouldn’t likely offer big wages.

Going somewhere like Bayern Munich or Juventus would also come with limited salary potential. Neither club has seriously been linked as it is.

Letting his Arsenal contract run down when, by all accounts, there is a deal on the table if he wants it, would be a huge risk for Ozil. Even for no transfer fee, would a big club be willing to meet his apparently very high wage demands and pay an inflated signing-on sum? Very possibly not.

Ozil could easily find himself in a situation where the only offers he has are from clubs at a lesser level than Arsenal. He has often been linked with moves to Turkey and has expressed interest in playing in the country from where he draws his heritage. But aged 29 is too soon for that – moving to Fenerbahce, say, would almost be an admission his career at the top is over.

If it becomes clear to Arsenal that Ozil isn’t able to find another club of the level he wants and offering the terms he wants, they would be perfectly within their right to drop their offer and save themselves a huge and unnecessary expense. The player is gambling with his future the longer the saga continues, and that is why the sooner Ozil signs a new deal, the better for him.