FC Barcelona comes out on top as the Spanish league breaks briefly for the Christmas holidays.
|Ozil has brushed off suggestions that his performances at the Bernabeu have made him a fan favourite [GALLO/GETTY]|
This has been quite a year for Mesut Ozil, the skilful German midfielder who within just a few months shot from virtual international obscurity to the limelight of the World Cup and a dream summer move to Real Madrid.
But despite the recent 5-0 drubbing at the hands of arch-rivals Barcelona, with whom Ozil was also heavily linked this summer, the left-footed virtuoso believes Real Madrid will finish on top of Spain’s Primera Division at the end of the season.
“When I see Barcelona I don’t think that they’re unreachable,” the German of Turkish origins told Al Jazeera after Barcelona humbled Espanyol 5-1 in the Catalan derby.
“Of course they are a great team and in a great moment of form, and winning their matches with big scorelines.
“But there are a lot of games remaining in La Liga, the Champions League and the Copa del Rey, and in football anything can happen.
“Our aim is always to look at our own performance, to get our points week in and week out, and then I’m confident that at the end of the season we’ll be at the top of the pack.”
Speaking after the final La Liga game of the year, a 1-0 home win over Sevilla, the former Werder Bremen midfielder was adamant that Madrid’s title challenge was on track despite their arch-rivals goal difference of 42, compared to Real’s 27.
“When I see Barcelona I don’t think that they’re unreachable. Of course they are a great team and in a great moment of form, and winning their matches with big scorelines. But there are a lot of games remaining”
Mesut Ozil, Real Madrid midfielder
That chasm is based on Barca’s incredible 29 goals scored away from the Nou Camp, while Real have managed just 13 on their travels.
But tellingly, the Madridistas are only two points behind.
“It has been a very positive year for us so far,” Ozil said.
“We’re successful as a team and the most important thing is to stay healthy and free of injuries.
“For now I just wish to enjoy these Christmas holidays, and my aim is to continue to develop my game and to continue to be successful with Real Madrid as a team.”
The German World Cup star, who scored a stunning winning goal against Ghana at the finals in South Africa, has grown in maturity under star coach Jose Mourinho, turning in winning performances and charming the Santiago Bernabeu faithful with equally skilful and hard-working performances.
Looking back on the football year that is now coming to an end, Ozil found particular joy in Germany’s spectacular World Cup campaign, which included four-goal victories over England and Argentina before a semi-final defeat to eventual champions Spain.
“The World Cup was one of my most special moments of this year, for sure,” he said.
“The entire world was watching us as a team, and to be able to measure yourself against the best players in the world was of course my dream.
“There were very nice moments and days in South Africa which I fondly remember.
“The World Cup was nice, but also of course that I came here to sign for Real Madrid was very special for me. Definitely also that I stayed free of injuries.”
Ozil picked up another rousing ovation from the Real Madrid fans at the weekend, but he smiled dismissively at suggestions that he is quickly becoming a crowd favourite in the Spanish capital.
“Fan favourite? I don’t watch out for those things really. Of course I’m happy that the fans like me. In general they support the team very well and we as a team are happy to have such fans.”
Expectations, though, are building in Madrid as Barcelona continue to win all the accolades, and Ozil believes one option for silverware this season may be in Europe, with Mourinho already having achieved the feat with Inter Milan in the European Champions League final this year in the Santiago Bernabeu.
“I think our chances in the Champions League are very good,” Ozil said.
“We are looking at us only, and not at any other teams. We want to play our game against Lyon, and I’m confident that we can progress to the next round.”
For Real Madrid’s young German star, the coming year promises to be an even more important one than the impressive 2010 he produced for both club and country.