Mesut Ozil has been a long-standing favorite for critiques and critics alike. More than a year ago, as the German returned from an injury that kept him out for the more decisive part of the season, the shadows of detractors lurked over his shoulders, cavorting and taunting the German about his physical shortcomings and the failure to live up to his supposedly bloated price tag.
As scathing as the opprobrium was, Ozil nonetheless continued to put in the hard yards, which many thought he wouldn’t do. Now, if there’s a midfielder no team wants to face, it has got to be the Arsenal no. 10. When he’s on the ball, you know you’re only one pass away from conceding a goal, but what you don’t know is how and when will he play that defense-splitting ball. It’s not so much that pinpoint accuracy that is the undoing, it’s more the decision making; the when to make the pass that makes him the threat he is. He keeps lurching around, and just as you think he’s switched off, he’ll produce something that’s akin to a work of art. Barely believable.
No wonder he’s the best player in England, and officially the best from Germany, too, having now won the German Player of the Year award for the fourth time in five years. Beating players like Thomas Müller, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos, Marco Reus, Manuel Neuer, Mario Götze and Jerome Boateng is a testament to the player he has become. Surely, a case made for the ultimate prize in football, the Ballon d’or?
Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and company may be from a different planet, but Ozil has been putting up equally mind-boggling performances. The only difference is that his name isn’t Messi or Cristiano. 16 assists and four goals at the halfway mark in a season is nothing to sneeze at, and to do it without a high-priced striker makes those numbers even more impressive (not that Olivier Giroud isn’t top drawer).
Of course, it’s obvious that Ozil has to win trophies for him to propel his case. He’s played his part for Germany so far and hopefully can continue to do so when it’s time for the Euros. The same goes for Arsenal, too, where a league title is the bare minimum. Another FA Cup won’t win him the Ballon d’or, not when he’s competing against Barcelona’s MSN or Real Madrid’s BBC, who’ve claimed major honors during Messi and Ronaldo’s runs.
The real keys for Ozil, though, are to maintain his consistency and try to continue improving, which will inevitably draw attention from voters who haven’t given their award to a midfielder in nearly a decade. Few might think a non-goalscorer can win the Ballon d’or when Messi, Cristiano, Neymar, Bale, Lewandowski, Muller, etc. are still in their primes. It’s a wild idea, to say the least, but to think it’s impossible is an insult to any midfielder, not just Ozil. The middle of the park is where those forwards get those goals.
Ozil for the Ballon d’or is a realistic prospect. As he continues embarrassing defenders and producing unparalleled numbers, there’s little doubt. He may not win it next year, or the year after, but there’s a sense of belief that the 27-year old will at some stage knock down those doors. His chances are on the rise.
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