Mesut Özil is close to agreeing a settlement with Arsenal that would allow him to terminate his contract and join Fenerbahce this month.
The playmaker’s future has been a live topic for several months and the question has been when, rather than if, he will depart a club at which he has fallen dramatically out of favour. Özil’s £350,000-a-week deal at Arsenal ends on 30 June but the two parties are on the verge of confirming an early parting of ways.
Talks are understood to be ongoing but player and club can now see a clear route out of a situation that has cast a shadow for longer than anyone involved would have liked. Özil was frozen out of Mikel Arteta’s plans after football returned from its Covid-19 hiatus in June and was then completely cut from the manager’s 25-man Premier League and Europa League squads for the first half of this season. He has become an expensive problem and, certainly among Arsenal’s fanbase, a deeply divisive one.
Fenerbahce emerged this week as the frontrunners for Özil’s signature in the event of a disentanglement with Arsenal, with the Major League Soccer club DC United also linked. He admitted in a Twitter question and answer session on Monday that Turkey and the US were the “two countries I want to play football in before I retire” and also explained that he grew up as a Fenerbahce fan, describing them as a Turkish version of Real Madrid.
Terms with Fenerbahce are not expected to be a problem and his arrival in Istanbul should be confirmed as soon after loose ends with Arsenal are tied up, potentially in the next few days. Özil won 92 caps for Germany, where he was born, during his international career but has Turkish heritage and has retained strong links with his ancestors’ country.
It will draw the curtain on a seven-and-a-half year spell at Arsenal that began amid significant excitement when he signed from Real Madrid for £42.5m in September 2013. The spell has not been without its successes, which have included three FA Cup wins, but did not quite provide the herald the fruitful new era that Arsenal had hoped for. His first three years at the Emirates were particularly impressive, with a return of 19 Premier League assists in 2015-16 bringing him the club’s player of the year award.
Özil’s effectiveness waned though, particularly after the departure of Arsène Wenger. He was dropped by Arteta’s predecessor, Unai Emery, while several off-pitch issues have caused friction with his employer. Özil was unhappy in December 2019 when, after he publicly criticised the treatment of Uighur Muslims in China, Arsenal distanced themselves from his comments.