Mesut Ozil, one of the stars of Germany’s 2014 World Cup-winning side, has flatly ruled out a comeback for the national team as he signed a three-and-a-half 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 origin, played a key role in Germany’s triumph at the World Cup held in Brazil almost seven years ago. But he was heavily criticised in Germany when he posed for a photograph with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the eve of the 2018 World Cup.
Erdogan was also the best man at the player’s wedding in Turkey.
The former Arsenal player complained of being subjected to “racist” attacks and quit the national team in anger, saying he was made the scapegoat for Germany’s first-round exit from the tournament in Russia.
He barely appeared for Arsenal – where he was the highest-paid player on a reported £350,000 ($480,000) a week – after slamming China’s treatment of the Uighur Muslim population in Xinjiang in 2019.
Arsenal initially distanced itself from Ozil’s remarks.
The 32-year-old will wear the number 67 jersey for Fenerbahce – the first two digits of the postal code of his family’s native Zonguldak province in Turkey.
Fenerbahce President Ali Koc said Ozil should be ready in time for the club’s big Istanbul derby against eternal rivals Galatasaray on February 6.
Ozil will officially earn three million euros a season – a fraction of the salary he drew at Arsenal and before that Real Madrid.
The Turkish club launched a donation campaign among its supporters this week to help pay Ozil’s wages.
Fenerbahce and Turkey’s other big clubs have been crippled by debt after taking on big contracts that became unsustainable because of the country’s economic problems.