Ozil bids farewell to Arsenal, joins Fenerbahce

ISTANBUL, TURKEY (AP) — Mesut Ozil said farewell to Arsenal teammates and flew to Turkey on Sunday to join Fenerbahce in a bid to reignite a once-flourishing career that faltered in London.

The former Germany midfielder, who is of Turkish descent, hasn’t played for Arsenal since March after falling out of favour with manager Mikel Arteta over concerns about the player’s work rate.

“I am very excited. I’ve said I’m a Fenerbahce fan. I am very happy to be coming to Fenerbahce,” Ozil said in a telephone interview with Turkish broadcaster BBO Sports. “God has granted me the chance to wear the Fenerbahce uniform as a Fenerbahce fan. I will do my best for the team.”

The 32-year-old Ozil wasn’t even included in Arsenal’s Premier League squad for the season despite being one of the highest earners and has been ostentatiously tweeting his support for the team from his home during matches.

Now Arsenal has managed to offload Ozil before his contract expires in June. Fenerbahce posted images of Ozil leaving London on a private jet on Sunday night.

After seven and a half years at Arsenal, which he joined from Real Madrid, Ozil is heading to one of the favoured clubs of Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“Welcome to your home, your country dear @MesutOzil1088,” Erdogan spokesman Ibrahim Kalin tweeted.

Ozil posed for photos with Erdogan in May 2018 in the run-up to the Turkish general election — prompting serious criticism from German football officials and antagonising some in Germany who felt the player wasn’t fully behind the national team — while the president was an official witness at Ozil’s wedding ceremony.

Fenerbahce won the last of its 19 Turkish league titles in 2014. The team has not been in the Champions League group stage since a match-fixing scandal broke in 2011.

Ozil’s last match for Arsenal was in March, a week before football was suspended at the outbreak of the coronavirus, so he might not be match-sharp to start immediately for Fenerbahce.

Ozil became ostracised by Arsenal just as Arteta was hired as manager in December 2019.

Former Germany midfielder Mesut Ozil poses for photographers with a Fenerbahce scarf after arriving at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, early yesterday. Ozil, who is of Turkish descent, will look to reignite his career in Turkey after he left Arsenal to join Fenerbahce. He hasn’t played for Arsenal this season after falling out of favour with manager Mikel Arteta over concerns about the player’s work rate. PHOTO: AP