Mesut Ozil should have been "prepared to face criticism" for his actions in the build-up to the World Cup in Russia, according to former Germany international Lothar Matthaus, as the controversy surrounding the midfielder’s decision to retire from international football continues to dominate pre-season talk.
The Arsenal star's decision to make himself unavailable for selection comes after a turbulent few months sparked by a protracted backlash over the player posing for a photograph with the President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a staunch political opponent of Germany whose government faces alleged human rights violations.
Following his country’s dismal World Cup exit in the group stages, Ozil issued a three-part statement to social media that roundly criticised both DFB president Reinhard Grindel and the federation itself over insensitivity towards his Turkish heritage.
The 29-year-old’s actions have sharply divided opinion in his homeland and Matthaus, who won 150 caps between 1980 and 2000 for the national side, feels that both the player and the DFB failed to anticipate how much of a hot-button issue it would become after Germany failed to make the last four in Russia for the first time in 20 years.
"It could have been dealt with better from the beginning," Matthaus told Kicker. "It is a pity and sad that it did not work.
"The topic has been underestimated from the start, even by the DFB. Anyone can take pictures with who they want, but then they have to be prepared to face criticism and give answers – it was drawn out for too long."
Ozil, who helped Germany to a first World Cup title in 24 years against Argentina in Brazil in 2014, has faced criticism over the past year for his downturn in form at international level, and endured a torrid tournament this year.
"Mesut has been a great performer in the national team for eight years, but for a year and a half I have not liked [his displays]," Matthaus added. "But I have criticised him for that, everything else does not interest me.
"From a sporting perspective – even if it sounds harsh – it is not a loss, but a chance to change something in this position."