Transfer deadline day was bittersweet for Real Madrid fans. It began with the excitement of the presentation of world record signing Gareth Bale at the Bernabeu. But as 30,000 supporters made their way towards the ground to greet their new hero, they learnt that the club was about to let go of another idol, Mesut Ozil, who later joined Arsenal for an estimated €50 million.
The devotion Madrid fans have for the German international, signed by Jose Mourinho in 2010 following a stunning World Cup, was quickly made clear. While fans inside the ground waited for Bale to arrive and make his speech, they began chanting for the club not to sell Ozil, as reported by Metro.
This continued when club president Florentino Perez took to the stage to welcome Bale, prompting him to give the fans closest to him a nasty look and put his finger to his mouth to tell them to shut up.
It was not just the fans who were disappointed about Ozil leaving, judging by interviews with Madrid players the following day.
Vice-captain Sergio Ramos did not hide his feelings, telling AS:
If it were up to me, he would be one of the last players to leave Madrid.
Everyone chooses what's best for them and he's free to do what he wants. I'm not annoyed that he has left, but I am sad about it.
He was certainly a friend and teammate like no-one else. He is a brilliant footballer, a unique player, and there was always a very good understanding between me and him. It's a shame.
Also speaking to AS, defender Alvaro Arbeloa added:
"I'm a bit surprised, it's a shame, and it's a big loss to the dressing room, on a footballing level and on a personal level too.”
A quick look at Ozil's stats tells you he had a huge role in the team. He made 159 competitive appearances in his three seasons at Madrid, scoring 27 goals and providing 61 assists.
He also provided Cristiano Ronaldo with 27 assists, the highest number the Portuguese forward has received from one player in his entire career.
According to Manu Sainz in AS, Ronaldo has told his Portugal teammates he is "angry" that the man that made him tick on the pitch has been sold.
All this makes us ask, why on earth did Madrid sell such an outstanding player who was so loved by fans and teammates alike?
There are two main explanations.
The first is financial. The €100 million Madrid parted with to land Bale obviously left a huge hole in the club's accounts. Although Perez has always maintained the club can profit from big-money signings through increased revenues from merchandising and marketing, €100 million is a colossal amount of money, even for a club as big as Real Madrid. You can understand why Perez thought he needed to go some way to compensating for that, and by selling Ozil he has already recovered half the money he spent on Bale.
The second is Isco. The €27 million signing plays in a similar attacking midfield role to Ozil and has begun his Madrid career in spectacular style, scoring three goals and providing one assist in his first three competitive games.
With Madrid needing cash urgently and Isco looking like he could fill Ozil's boots, you can see why the club did what they did.
Furthermore, the fact they signed Ozil for €15m and sold him for €50m is an outstanding piece of business which should be applauded.
However, a team challenging on all fronts, as Real Madrid are obliged to do, need a big squad teeming with talent, and the club would be far better equipped in their bids to win La Liga and the Champions League with Ozil in the side.
It would have made more sense to sell Sami Khedira instead. The player has revealed that the club rejected a bid for him on deadline day, which, according to Ben Curtis of The Daily Mirror, the bid was from Manchester United, for £34 million (€40 million).
Although that is €10 million shy of the amount Arsenal coughed up for Ozil, it would have been enough to soften the blow of the Bale deal to Madrid's finances, especially considering that Kaka, who joined AC Milan on a free transfer, is now off the club's wage bill, saving them €11 million a year—a total of €22 million—according to Spanish newspaper 20minutos.
Khedira is a fine player, even if not aesthetically, and does a vital job in recovering the ball for Madrid and protecting the defence. However, after the signings of Asier Illarramendi and Casemiro, Madrid are much more secure in the area of defensive midfield than attacking midfield.
Alfredo Relano pointed out in AS that many Madrid fans envisaged a partnership of Modric and Xabi Alonso in midfield this season, making the fact that Khedira was retained over Ozil far more infuriating. Of course, Alonso is not expected to return until late November after breaking a metatarsal, but Casemiro and Illarramendi, who has now recovered from injury and was named in the squad for the Athletic Bilbao match, can fill in until he does.
While Khedira is important to Madrid, if he had left the morale and structure of the team would not have been as badly affected as it has been by the sale of Ozil.
Only time will tell, but if Isco gets injured or fails to work up the same understanding with Ronaldo that Ozil had, then Madrid may live to regret the move dearly.
There is a worrying precedent for Los Blancos. In the summer of 2009 Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben were sold to make way for Kaka and Ronaldo. The departed players ended up leading their new sides Inter Milan and Bayern Munich to the Champions League final in the Bernabeu the following season, while Madrid were eliminated from the tournament in the second round.
They will be hoping history does not repeat itself with Ozil.
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