We had the chance to catch up with former Real Madrid maestro Mesut Özil. Interview transcribed below.
Kiyan: When Real Madrid signed you in 2010 for 15 million €, it was the biggest bargain around. You turned out to be worth much more than that. But also, when you were signed, you took a big leap leaving Germany as a star and going to a new country, to a team that already had Kaka in your position. What was your mentality going into Madrid? Did you expect to have such a huge role in your first season?
Mesut: I didn't expect an offer from Real Madrid before the World Cup 2010 in South Africa. My first conversations with Jose Mourinho were absolutely positive - such a great coach showed me a perspective at one of the greatest clubs worldwide. I don't think that there are many players that could reject an offer from Real Madrid at the age of 21. From day one I only tried to give my best in every single training with all these world class football players. It was an honour for me to play with them at an early age. I hoped to get as much playing experience as possible.
Kiyan: What Real Madrid fans quickly learned about you was that your style of play was aesthetically beautiful. You have a certain elegance to the way you play. Who was your football idol, and which player inspired you to play the way that you do?
Mesut: Zinedine Zidane! A fantastic player during my youth time - I've always tried to copy his tricks. That worked for some a little more - for some a little less.
Kiyan: El Clásico - run us through what it was like playing against Barcelona every season. Is there any match in England that compares to it?
Mesut: In England we have a lot of London derbys. But you can't really compare one of them with El Clásico. Especially during my time in Spain. El Clásico was often a match that decided the title. Of course Tottenham vs. Arsenal is a great derby, too.
Kiyan: What was the best memory you had with Real Madrid?
Mesut: My best memory I had with Real Madrid was winning the league title in 2012. But I was happy about winning Copa del Rey in 2011, too.
Kiyan: Do you have any regrets with the way things ended with the Club?
Mesut: That's football business. Sometimes you have other targets in football. I had a great time in Madrid. I also have lot of fun in London.
Kiyan: What is your relationship like with Florentino Perez?
Mesut: Everything's fine. If we see each other, nobody is angry with one the other.
Kiyan: Do you feel like you were pushed out in any way from Real Madrid when the Club signed Gareth Bale, or that Real Madrid sometimes focuses too much on a players marketing value over what's best for the team?
Mesut: I think nowadays that's the way football is like. One player comes, the other goes. I don't spend a lot of my time thinking what could have been or should have been. I'm happy that I'm here in London now.
Kiyan: What is life like working under Arsene Wenger, and how does it differ from playing under Jose Mourinho?
Mesut: I'm proud that I could work with Jose Mourinho and I'm also proud that I can work with Arsene Wenger. They are different characters with their own strengths. I'm happy that I could continue developing with both coaches.
Kiyan: What has been your favorite assist of the season, and also favorite assist of your career?
Mesut: Good question, ... but there's not that single assist I remember the most. My favorite assists are always those which lead us to victories, of course!
Kiyan: Can you touch on the difference between being a playmaker at Arsenal, and being a playmaker at Real Madrid?
Mesut: The biggest difference between being a playmaker at Arsenal and being a playmaker at Real Madrid is the league itself. In the Premier League the opponents never give up - no matter what the score is. That makes it hard to play here in England. You are never on the safe side.
Kiyan: Throughout your entire career, who was the player you enjoyed assisting the most?
Mesut: During my career there have been several players I assisted. I assisted Cristiano Ronaldo the most but there's not one single player I enjoyed assisting the most!
Kiyan: On any given day, how many times do you and Per walk around the locker-room waving your World Cup medals?
Mesut: *laughs* It is a great feeling to own a World cup medal, but we've celebrated enough and for a very long time. We both are really proud for what we achieved with the national team, but we still want more and there's a big tournament coming up this summer...
Kiyan: Is there a particular message you would like to convey to Real Madrid fans?
There's no particular message for the fans, but I would like to say thank you to all of those, who always supported me! It is always important to have fans backing me back and I'm happy to have great fans at Arsenal as well!