Mesut Ozil has opened up on his decision to reject a pay cut at Arsenal, and his determination to see out the final year of his contract despite a ‘difficult’ period at the Emirates.
Arsenal became the first Premier League club to agree widespread pay cuts with their players as football clubs felt the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic, all but three of the Gunners’ squad agreeing to a 12.5% cut despite the PFA advising against the reductions.
The pay cuts were agreed with the players under the impression it would help keep other staff members in employment, only for Arsenal to announce the redundancies of 55 staff members – a scenario which has reportedly left many of the first-team squad disappointed.
Ozil is the highest-paid player at the north London side on £350,000-a-week and was widely criticised for rejecting the cuts, whilst he was also the only one of the trio to have been publicly named, the German often a target for critics given his club-record salary.
The 31-year-old has now opened up on his choice to reject the cut and says ‘more information’ was needed before hastily making a decision under ‘a lot of pressure’, before hitting out at the Arsenal board over the club’s recent redundancies and suggesting his decision has been proven somewhat justified.
“As players, we all wanted to contribute,” Ozil told The Athletic. “But we needed more information and many questions were unanswered. Everyone was fine with a deferral while there was so much uncertainty — I would have been OK to take a bigger share — and then a cut if required, once the football and financial outlook was clearer. But we were rushed into it without proper consultation.
“For anyone in this situation, you have a right to know everything, to understand why it is happening and where the money is going. But we didn’t get enough details, we just had to give a decision. It was far too quick for something so important and there was a lot of pressure.
“This was not fair, especially for the young guys, and I refused. I had a baby at home and have commitments to my family here, in Turkey and in Germany — to my charities, too, and also a new project we started to support people in London that was from the heart and not for publicity.
“People who know me know exactly how generous I am and, as far as I’m aware, I was not the only player who rejected the cut in the end, but only my name came out. I guess that’s because it is me and people have been trying for two years to destroy me, to make me unhappy, to push an agenda they hope will turn the supporters against me and paint a picture that is not true.
“Possibly the decision affected my chances on the pitch, I don’t know. But I’m not afraid to stand up for what I feel is right — and when you see what has happened now with the jobs, maybe I was.”
Ozil also discussed his future at the club with the playmaker having fallen out-of-favour under Mikel Arteta, failing to make an appearance for the club following the Premier League restart in June.
Speculation has continued to link the former Germany international with a move away but his huge wages remain a stumbling block for potential suitors, however, Ozil insists he remains happy at Arsenal and intends to see out the final year of his contract.
“My position is clear,” he said. “I’m here through to the last day of our agreement and I’ll give everything I have for this club. Situations like these will never break me, they only make me stronger. I showed in the past that I can come back into the team and I will show it again.”
Ozil insisted he will not be forced out of the exit door at the Emirates despite his peripheral status, reiterating his love for the club and life in London as he looks to force his way back into Arteta’s plans.
“I’ll decide when I go, not other people,” he insisted.
“I didn’t sign for two or three years, I signed for four and that should be respected by everyone. Things have obviously been difficult but I love Arsenal, I love to work there, I love the people in the club — the real people, those I’ve been with for a long time — and I love London, it’s my home.
“Whatever happened in the last two seasons, I’m happy and very strong mentally. I never give up on anything. I want to help my team and I’ll fight for it. If I’m fit, I know what I can do on the pitch.”