Two years ago, as Germany marched towards World Cup glory, Mesut Ozil was a lightning rod for criticism back home from media critics and former professionals alike. Given he was out of sorts, some of the comments weren’t too far off the mark.
Weirdly, it seems to be happening again. Not that he cares too much.
After a stellar season leading the Arsenal midfield, the 27-year-old feels confident enough to brush off criticism about his performances and body language against Ukraine and Poland. The Germans, who have four points so far, need to beat Northern Ireland tomorrow evening if they’re to secure top spot in Group C.
“It bounces off me,” the Arsenal playmaker said when asked about the latest derogatory comments aimed in his direction (translation by ESPN).
“To be honest, I don’t care what others say. There will always be people who voice their opinion, mostly it’s negative. I don’t know if they have to say it or not. When a former player or whoever wants to make headlines, it just bounces off me.
“Like I said, the coach’s opinion matters: Mr Low tells me the truth.”
He continued: “How much we run, how many springs, you can ask the Bundestrainer [Low], I am always in the top five. The other thing is just personal, it’s aura. We are all in our own skin.”
“I never wanted to prove anything, neither to me nor the people. It was always my goal to help the team. There’s a minority of fans and a few journalists who only measure me by how many goals I’ve scored or created.
“But a game lasts 90 minutes. And what I do there — the ground I cover, my passes, the chances I create – sometimes just does not interest them. But to me it matters what the coach thinks of me.”
Ozil also dismissed suggestions he should adapt his game and be more selfish in the final third.
“I will never do that, and I don’t have to,” he said. “I’ve been very successful with it over the years, no matter where in this world I have played. Some say that I have to be more egoistic. But I am just the guy who passes the ball when’s someone’s in a better position.”
Ozil also hit back at teammate Jerome Boateng who suggested that Germany need to improve in the final third if they are to succeed in France.
“We have to take shots,” said Boateng. “It’s all good until we reach the final third, but we can’t get past the opponents, are not dangerous. We need to improve that, otherwise we won’t get far.”
Bristling with annoyance, Ozil said: “That’s his opinion. He certainly knows how to play attacking football.”