Arsenal legend Ian Wright has said the prospect of Mesut Ozil joining Premier League rivals Manchester United on a free transfer scares him "to death," as the Gunners midfielder approaches the end of his contract.
Wright also voiced his opinion that the free transfer "looks a shoo-in" next summer. He told the BBC (h/t the Daily Mirror's John Cross):
“Mesut Ozil on a free to Manchester United on a free looks a shoo-in. I'm sure Jose [Mourinho, Manchester United manager] would love to do that.
“That would frighten me to death. He is a great talent and having great players around him would lift him up as well.
“I'm sure him and his agent would not push it this far if they were going to sign [for Arsenal]."
Ozil is able to sign a pre-contract agreement with any team outside the Premier League when he enters the final six months of his deal in January, with Barcelona touted as another potential destination for the playmaker.
The Daily Telegraph's James Ducker recently likened the Germany international's prospective Old Trafford switch to one United icon who went on to accomplish great things with the club in the latter years of his career:
James Ducker @TelegraphDucker
It was the 25th anniversary of Eric Cantona’s move from #LUFC to #MUFC y’day. Ferguson would later call him the “can opener”. Mourinho looks in need of a can opener, too, as he wrestles with his No 10 conundrum. He could do worse than take Ozil from #AFC https://t.co/xVPjQiwSoX
Red Devils manager Mourinho recruited Ozil from Werder Bremen in 2010 after being appointed Real Madrid boss, and the player left for Arsenal in August 2013, three months after the Portuguese parted company with Los Blancos.
ESPN's Alex Shaw provided an excerpt from Ozil's autobiography, titled Die Magie des Spiels (The Magic of the Game), in which he professed to "love Mourinho" despite some rocky moments in their relationship:
The Gunners are at risk of losing two headline stars in Ozil and Alexis Sanchez next year, with both of their deals expiring in June 2018 and no word of progress being made in contract talks for some time.
Football writer Layth Yousif inferred Ozil's heart and determination to star for Arsenal is waning, suggesting his absence in Sunday's 1-0 win against Burnley could have been prevented:
Wright's concerns regarding a no-cost move to Old Trafford are justified, given they would symbolise much of what many Arsenal fans fear: losing major resources to a direct rival—for nothing, no less—who offers better prospects.
The Red Devils have taken to splurging on star talent in recent years, spending heavily to sign the likes of Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku and Anthony Martial, but Ozil could be a recruit of massive value on a free.
In October, Ciaran Kelly of the Manchester Evening News quoted a source close to Ozil, who said Mourinho and his former Real star are "always in contact," which is another worrying development for those at the Emirates Stadium.
Unless Arsenal can enact the major change needed to help convince their want-away stars to stick around, Wright's fears over a United manoeuvre could be realised.