Mesut Özil might have had his critics since his club record £42.5 million (Dhs228 million) switch to Arsenal in 2013, but last season marked something of a breakthrough for him.
The mercurial German helped the Gunners dramatically snatch second place in the Premier League from bitter rivals Spurs on the final day, also topping the club’s assist charts and winning its player of the year award.
His attentions now turn to Euro 2016, which kicks off on Friday June 10 in France, as Germany hope to add the European crown to the World Cup they secured in Brazil two years ago.
We catch up with Özil at the Arsenal Soccer School at The Sevens Stadium to ask him what he makes of Germany’s chances of doing the double.
“We know it’s France’s home tournament and they have a very strong team with some good players, so it won’t be easy to play against them,” he says. “But we played Brazil in Brazil and know the home teams always have the fans behind them and have that extra strength because of it. But we are prepared to play against any team in the world and so we just focus on playing our football.”
The 27-year-old now has three campaigns in England under his belt and expects Roy Hodgson’s men to be in the mix at the Euros, especially after a stirring 3-2 friendly win over Germany in Berlin.
“I know the players well and I know they are very strong,” he says. “They have some good young players especially and I think they will be one of the favourites at the Euros. I see the younger players every week on the pitch and they have a lot of talent. In the Berlin friendly we were 2-0 up but England came back to win. That shows the character and also the mentality of the side, how strong they are.”
Mental fortitude is something Özil and his teammates were accused of lacking as their title change petered out.
But despite having his detractors, you can tell Özil’s love of the game remains as strong as ever. He even notched up a few assists as he joined a training session for Arsenal’s Dubai batch of future young stars.
For more information on the Arsenal Soccer School Dubai visit www.playthearsenalway.com/dubai.