With the start of Euro 2012 just over a week away, Goal.com International's Germany expert Clark Whitney profiles the Mannschaft and Real Madrid playmaker Mesut Ozil
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Ever since Jurgen Klinsmann’s time as head coach, Germany have strived to play beautiful, attacking football.
This objective was, for some time, a difficult goal to attain as Michael Ballack, though great, was never a true No. 10 and there were times when the German attack would screech to a halt. Klinsmann, and later Joachim Low, needed a different type of player. And then, in 2009, Mesut Ozil emerged.
Fast forwarding to the present, Ozil has become the heartbeat of the German attack, a marvellous distributor of the ball through whom nearly every advance runs. Months after debuting for the senior side, he was a breakthrough performer at the 2010 World Cup, scoring a critical group-stage winner against Ghana and securing his spot on the shortlist for the tournament's Golden Ball award.
Even in 2010, Low knew just how much of a gem he had uncovered in his star playmaker.
"Mesut is a player who fits perfectly with my ideas,” he told reporters. “He plays at a very high level, he can win the ball easily and then produce a telling shot. He is a playmaker and can make some defence-splitting passes."
After the World Cup, Ozil moved to Real Madrid and continued to progress. In two seasons under Jose Mourinho he has scored 17 goals and given 49 assists. But even so, his quality at club level pales in comparison with his performances on the international stage.
Since the summer of 2010, Ozil has played in 14 games for Germany, netting six and assisting nine goals: on average, he either scores or sets up a strike every 78 minutes.
In Madrid, Mourinho’s attack more often runs through Cristiano Ronaldo. Low’s Germany, by contrast, is designed for a player of Ozil’s attributes to be the primary outlet in attack, with the wingers and central striker all making runs and exchanging passes according to his orchestration.
|"Mesut is a player who fits perfectly with my ideas. He plays at a very high level, he can win the ball easily and then produce a telling shot. He is a playmaker and can make some defence-splitting passes"
- Joachim Low
Ozil started to show his ability as a conductor in 2010, but as he has matured and grown accustomed to his team-mates, he has become even better. His display in Germany’s 3-0 demolition of bitter rivals Netherlands in November in a friendly is a perfect example of the class he can bring on the international stage.
With Euro 2012 approaching, Ozil has hit a rich vein of late-season form. He played a hand in goals in six of Real Madrid’s final seven games, leading the club to a record 100-point tally in La Liga. And in the season finale against Mallorca, the Gelsenkirchen native scored two exquisite goals.
Now, Ozil can focus on the European Championship, and gaining redemption after his side bowed out to Spain in the 2010 World Cup semi-final. He has shared some words with his club team-mates over a potential run-in between Spain and Germany in Poland and Ukraine, but revealed in February that there is a mutual regard between the two nations.
"We are starting to make jokes about it in training," Ozil told reporters. "But they have respect for us just as we have for them.
"Our goal must be to focus on ourselves and reach our potential. Then we can beat anyone."
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