German football isn’t exactly covering itself in glory at the moment, and we’re not just talking about themisery of a first World Cup group stage exit since 1938. Germany star, Mesut Özil has been one of the primary scapegoats following the disastrous campaign, a position the loquacious Arsenal playmaker often tends to find himself in with the German press.
The criticism of the midfielder has taken on a decidedly nastier tone this time, aggravated by a photo he took before the tournament with Turkey’s controversial president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a faux pas that has been widely derided in Germany due to tensions between the two countries. Criticism of Özil has even begun taking on an increasingly racial tenor, including withering, tone deaf comments from one of the most respected figures in German football in Uli Hoeness.
Finding himself defending at all quarters, Özil recently took the decision to quit the national team in a lengthy Twitter post, rebuking a German public that only sees him as, “German when we win, but an immigrant when we lose.”
Being also German and endlessly quotable, Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp was asked to give his thoughts on the divisive issue. Despite admitting that the event behind the controversy was most likely ill-advised, the ex-Borussia Dortmund boss still made a point of backing his compatriot against the inappropriate accusations.
“I really don’t think that anybody’s said the 100 percent right thing about it, and I don’t have the right thing to say about it,” the 51-year-old told reporters regarding Özil’s retiremnet. “It’s a personal decision and, first of all, you don’t want to play for Germany -- other players did that as well.
“He had 92 games. All the rest, I don’t really understand it 100 percent. Yes, the picture (with Erdogan) was more than unlucky. That’s how it is, 100 percent.
“But all rest is then you can find true things in what he wrote and you will find a few things that obviously that the rest of the world would say, ‘No, that’s not exactly like it is.
“But it’s a personal opinion, not more. It’s his opinion that it happens like that and that’s why he stepped back. So his decision, absolutely, and he has the right to do so.”