Arsène Wenger has given Arsenal’s supporters the statement signing they have craved with the €50m (£42.5m) purchase of the attacking midfielder Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid, a move that has nearly trebled the club’s previous highest outlay on a player. The manager had expressed the confidence that Arsenal’s increased financial firepower would permit him to complete a deal for one of the biggest names on the market. At 10.30pm on Monday he could celebrate a coup.
Ozil becomes the third most expensive signing in British football history, behind Fernando Torres, who joined Chelsea from Liverpool for £50m in 2011, and Carlos Tevez, who cost Manchester City £45m. The 24-year-old has agreed a five-year contract, which is worth a basic £150,000 a week, with bonuses on top, having completed a medical earlier in the day in Germany, where he was preparing with his national team for the World Cup qualifier against Austria on Friday.
There was jubilation from Wenger and the Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis, with the latter describing Ozil as a “world-class player, who is one of Europe’s brightest young talents”. Gazidis also paid tribute to the support of the club’s majority shareholder Stan Kroenke who, he said, “wants to see Arsenal winning titles and trophies and has absolute faith and belief in our manager to achieve that”.
“We are extremely pleased to have signed Mesut Ozil,” Wenger said. “He is a great player, with proven quality at both club and international level. We have watched and admired him for some time as he has all the attributes I look for in an Arsenal player.”
In many respects the signing served to rescue a testing transfer window for Arsenal, although there remained disquiet at the failure to sign a top-class striker, which had seemed the priority throughout the summer. The club failed in moves for Gonzalo Higuaín, Luis Suárez and Wayne Rooney while a bid to take Chelsea’s Demba Ba on loan broke down close to the deadline. Arsenal suggested that Chelsea had been reluctant to loan Ba to a Premier League rival, but it is understood that the west London club called off the deal when an agreement could not be reached over the size of the arrangement fee.
A playmaker had appeared, also, to be behind a defensive midfielder, a defender and a goalkeeper on Arsenal’s high-end wish-list but the opportunity to sign an international like Ozil does not come around very often and Wenger duly authorised the move, even if the fee might have gone against his natural instincts. Arsenal’s previous record signing had been Andrey Arshavin at £15m from Zenit St Petersburg in 2009. The forward was released on 30 June upon the expiry of his contract.
Wenger had said on Sunday night, after the 1-0 derby win over Tottenham Hotspur, that he was prepared to pay “a bit over the market, as long as it is not crazy” and he stretched himself to get Ozil, the king of the assist, whose technique and smooth passing mark him out as a fans’ favourite.
Wenger’s interest in him dates to 2007, when Ozil was at Schalke. He moved to Werder Bremen in 2008 and make a significant impression on the English conscience in 2009, at the European U21 Championship final, when he orchestrated Germany’s 4-0 destruction of England in the final. Ozil starred for the senior Germany team at the 2010 World Cup and, although Wenger tried to sign him that summer, he moved to Real for €15m.
Ozil initially had his reservations about the switch to Arsenal and, last Wednesday, he said he would be staying at Real. He was talked round, however, by Wenger, after also realising that his chances stood to be restricted at Real. The Spanish club have not only signed Bale but Isco, from Málaga, to supplement their existing options. Manchester United and Paris St-Germain had monitored Ozil’s situation over the previous days but it was Arsenal who acted decisively.
“I am thrilled to be joining a club of the stature of Arsenal,” Ozil said. “It will be great for my personal development and I am particularly looking forward to working with Arsène Wenger. It is clear that the club has huge ambition.”
Wenger had already signed the striker Yaya Sanogo and the former Arsenal midfielder Mathieu Flamini, both as free agents, and he added the goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano on a season-long loan from Palermo earlier in the day. The 27-year-old Italy international will provide cover for the first-choice Wojciech Szczesny.