A former member of the German national football team has said he will never play for them again.
Mesut Ozil, one of the stars of the 2014 World Cup-winning German team, has categorically ruled out a national team return by signing a three-and-a-half-year contract with Turkish football club Fenerbahce.
“I wish the German national team success, but I will never play for them again,” the 32-year-old attacking midfielder told reporters in fluent Turkish at his official unveiling in Istanbul on Wednesday.
Ozil, whose family is of Turkish descent, played a key role in Germany’s triumph at the World Cup held in Brazil almost seven years ago. But he was heavily criticized in Germany when he posed for a photo with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the eve of the 2018 World Cup.
Erdogan was also the best man of the player’s marriage in Turkey.
The former Arsenal player complained that he had been subjected to ‘racist’ attacks and left the national team in anger, claiming he had been made the scapegoat for Germany’s exit to the first round of the tournament in Russia.
He barely appeared for Arsenal – where he was the highest-paid player with £ 350,000 ($ 480,000) a week – after criticizing China’s treatment of the Uyghur Muslim population of Xinjiang in 2019.
Arsenal initially distanced themselves from Ozil’s remarks.
The 32-year-old will wear jersey number 67 for Fenerbahce – the first two digits of the postcode for Zonguldak province, his family’s hometown, Turkey.
Fenerbahçe chairman Ali Koc said Ozil should be ready in time for the club’s grand Istanbul derby against eternal rival Galatasaray on February 6.
Ozil will officially earn three million euros per season – a fraction of the salary he made at Arsenal and before Real Madrid.
The Turkish club this week launched a fundraising campaign among its supporters to help pay Ozil’s salaries.
Fenerbahçe and Turkey’s other big clubs have been crippled by debt after contracting big contracts that have become unsustainable due to the country’s economic woes.