The sigh of relief in German football was almost audible when Mesut Ozil made the step up to international class with a string of outstanding performances. At last, people said, the three-time world champions had a new “number ten”. And they were right: a sprightly and technically gifted playmaker, Ozil is the kind of player that does not come along very often. This attacking midfielder brings the kind of invention and guile that can turn a game on its head.
The Gelsenkirchen-born gem with Turkish roots scaled the heights of the professional game from his own doorstep with Schalke 04, tasting his first experience on an international stage in the UEFA Champions League. At that time, Ozil was still conducting the midfield in Germany’s youth teams. It was when he signed for Werder Bremen in January 2008 that his career went into overdrive, stepping into the shoes of Brazilian playmaker Diego to fire the northern club to 2009 German Cup glory with the winning goal in a 1-0 victory over Bayer Leverkusen in Berlin’s Olympiastadion.
The weeks that followed were the most important of Ozil’s career to date. At the UEFA European U-21 Championship 2009 in Sweden, he inspired Germany to the title with a series of remarkable performances and was voted man of the match in the 4-0 final triumph over England, scoring one goal and providing two assists. Germany coach Joachim Low rewarded the prodigious young talent with four appearances in qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™; with great success too, most notably when Ozil magically laid on Miroslav Klose’s winner as Germany pulled off a decisive 1-0 victory over Russia in Moscow in October 2009.
“Ozil is a gift for German football,” said Low of the 21-year-old. A reserved and modest figure off the pitch, Germany’s new hope cuts an explosive and marauding figure when he crosses the white line. At the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, the midfielder is also an option for a left-wing berth or as a second withdrawn striker, giving him the freedom to wreak havoc from a central role.