Mesut Ozil Steps Onto a Giant Spanish Stage

MesutOzil_1333259 Turkish-German footballer Mesut Ozil has signed with Spanish giants Real Madrid it was announced last week. The 21-year-old midfielder played for the Werder Bremen in the German Bundesliga, and a fee in the range of 15 million euros was reportedly agreed upon for the transfer. Ozil was beginning the last year of his contract, so Werder Bremen traded him away for fear of losing him for nothing next summer. He had been rumored to be on his way to either Chelsea or Manchester United in the English Premier League before being sent to Spain’s La Liga. Ozil came into prominence this past summer when he starred for the German national team, and was even one of only 10 players nominated for the tournament’s Golden Ball Award.

Real Madrid’s official website was effusive in its praise of their new acquisition, “His unique touch, unmatched individual technique, excellent ball control and deadly last pass make the German midfielder one of the brightest up-and-coming stars in European football.”

Ozil will be joining a fellow German Muslim in the Real Madrid midfield, Turkish-German Sami Khedira, who was also on the German national team. And, Real Madrid has a history of Muslims prospering in the midfield, with French great Zinedine Zidane having played there. Some in the Spanish press have even dubbed Mesut Ozil as “The German Zidane.” And Ozil doesn’t seem to mind being mentioned in the same sentence as his childhood idol. “He was my hero,” Ozil told the German newspaper Bild. “As a boy I admired his skills on television and I tried to copy them. I’m honored by the comparison.”

Ozil scored 13 goals in 60 matches for Werder Bremen, whom he joined in January of 2008 after a 4.3 million euro transfer from Bundesliga rivals FC Schalke 04. But he sees a real opportunity for not only Spanish titles, but also Champions League titles with his new club.”Real Madrid is a symbol of success – it’s the best club in the world. Whoever comes here does so to win titles,” he announced at his press conference. “I only wanted to come here. To play for Real Madrid is a special honor.”

Ozil’s brother Mutlu also plays professional soccer. He plays for Heßler 06 in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Ozil recites Qur’an verses before all his matches to help him focus. Talking to the Berlin-based daily Der Tagesspiegel, Ozil said, “I always do that before I go out (on the pitch). I pray and my team-mates know that they cannot talk to me during this brief period.” Ozil is a key piece of the offense on the pitch, but he is clearly a solid member of the Ummah off of it.


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