Ah, to be young, talented, and near the end of your contract. That's exactly the fantasy (or predicament) that German hot shot Mesut Özil finds himself in this summer. He has been linked with major moves to either England or Spain, and the world's most well-endowed clubs are licking their chops at the prospect of landing the World Cup phenom at a reasonable price of about £20 million. Özil has openly pledged his allegiance to his current Bundesliga outfit, Werder Bremen, and Bremen have backed Özil's loyalty, saying that they'd rather see him leave on a free next summer when his contract expires. However, contract extension talks have stalled and in the whirlwind world of the transfer window, everyone has a price. Here are five possible destinations for the German midfield starlet.
City looks to be in revamp mode this offseason in terms of finding midfield talent to stock up on. Özil has definitely been a name in the mix. The additions of David Silva and Yaya Toure beef up Manchester City's wings and holding presence. Plus, their continued interest in Villa's James Milner would set the stage nicely for the versatile Özil to step into the central attacking role in the midfield and play behind the prolific Carlos Tevez. City boss Roberto Mancini has also been rumoured to be cutting ties with attacking midfielder Stephen Ireland. The 23-year-old saw a large dip in production last year under the guidance of the Italian manager and it's been speculated that Ireland may get the boot from the 25-man final squad. Mancini and Co. have no qualms with spending the money to land Özil. However, the situation in Manchester City's camp is a bit unsettled at the moment to bring in yet another midfielder. The addition of two, possibly three new midfielders coupled with a dismal pre-season thus far and the re-emergence of Torres transfer rumours have supporters all abuzz, and have possibly dropped them out of the race to add Özil. Plus, City will not be partaking in Champions League football this season, which will likely be a major factor in Özil's decision, seeing as Werder Bremen and his other suitors all offer CL play.
An attractive option for Mesut Özil, no doubt. But do the Catalans really offer the best destination for the young playmaker? Özil's quick feet, superb vision and creativity in the midfield suit Barcelona's style of play. It's a salivating prospect to imagine what Özil could accomplish while surrounded by players like Messi, Iniesta, and the newly added David Villa. Fun to imagine, but in reality, Özil would have to battle for playing time. Barcelona knows this, which have brought about rumours of the Catalans buying Özil simply to spite other clubs and then loan Özil back out to Germany to develop further. Barca has also been linked most heavily this summer with Cesc Fabregas. Their game of cat and mouse with Arsene Wenger has delayed the pursuit of Özil and left him on the backburner.
Özil's linkage with a move to the Gunners is less about how he'd fit their system, and more about who it is he'd be replacing. Boss Arsene Wenger and talisman Cesc Fabregas are reported to be in heavy talks this week about the midfielder's future at Arsenal. Fabregas celebrated a deserved World Cup trophy with his countrymen in South Africa and now his fellow Spaniards want the party to continue in Barcelona. Wenger dispelled notions that Arsenal are a "selling club," as they have let a number of high-profile players move on in recent years. Whether the Emirates renege on their word with Fabregas remains to be seen. If Cesc were to leave, many a supporter are beckoning for Özil to be his replacement. Fabregas talks aside, Arsenal may be better off looking to sign Özil as an addition, not necessarily as a replacement. Hypothetically, if Cesc stays, Özil would be a great fit in Arsenal's midfield playing behind the strikers, allowing Fabregas to drop back in the midfield and assume more of a distribution role. It's unknown whether Arsenal will spend the money to buy Özil if they're able to keep Fabregas. Until the situation develops more, the club's intentions remain rather nebulous.
The feel-good move for Germany. Özil being moved to perennial powerhouse Bayern Munich would give the Bavarians that warm, fuzzy feeling. Despite playing in the nominal rough-and-tumble Bundesliga, Munich plays a surprisingly creative brand of football. Wing options like Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, along with Deustschland's new golden boy, Bastian Schweinsteiger, make a move to the German outfit an attractive option. Runners-up in the Champions League final, Munich have proven they compete on the highest level. Furthermore, the combination and subsequent development of chemistry between Germany's three brightest stars (Mueller, Schweinsteiger, Özil) would arouse fantasies of a 2014 World Cup victory, even in the minds of Stuttgart supporters (like me). Schweinsteiger has been linked with a move away to England, but the addition of Özil would likely convince him to stay. Plus, reports of Chelsea dropping out of Özil bidding due to expectations that Bayern will sign him, make this move grow ever the more possible with each passing day.
Özil expressed interest in moving to the Premiership from the get-go and well all know what club springs to mind when young, wide-eyed players talk about moves to England. Sir Alex Ferguson set Özil in his cross-hairs since Wesley Sneijder declared he wasn't moving from Inter Milan. United turned speculation into full-on pursuit after a few short weeks. Barcelona delayed with Fabregas, Chelsea and Ancelotti's talks with Ramires have stalled thier progress in signing Özil, and Manchester City's recent midfield signings have quelled rumours about them making a move. It's been a perfect storm that has propelled Man. United to the front of potential buyers for the classy playmaker. The styles and system mesh well. Immortal playmakers Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs are nearing the twilight of their careers, and Özil would make a darling of a replacement for the Red Devils. Also, with the addition of Javier Hernandez, it's hard not to imagine these two dynamos leading Man United into the future. The move is totally conceivable and after all, it is Sir Alex. We'll soon see if he gets his way with the German international.