Europe 1 with AFP 19:13 pm, March 22, 2023

Footballer Mesut Özil has announced his retirement at the age of 34. The former Mannschaft international made the difficult decision after suffering several injuries as a result. He signed last summer with Turkish club Basaksehir.

He conquered Germany thanks to his "light foot", before slamming the door of the Mannschaft amid accusations of racism: German playmaker Mesut Özil announced Wednesday that he was retiring at the age of 34. "In recent months and weeks, after suffering from several injuries, it has become increasingly clear that it is time for me to leave this great world of football," the 2014 world champion said in a lengthy message posted on Twitter.

The former Werder Bremen, Real Madrid and Arsenal player, during his completed career with Turkish club Basaksehir, has unleashed passions, on and off the pitch. He signed with Basaksehir last July for one season, after a difficult spell at Fenerbahçe where he came into conflict with his management. Ozil had already ended up in the closet at Arsenal, his previous club.

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Beginnings in apotheosis

The story had started well: "He's Germany's new number ten," Stern magazine trumpeted in June 2010 about the Ruhr kid. Born to Turkish parents, the playmaker and his German-Tunisian teammate Sami Khedira did wonders at the South African World Cup, where Germany finished third, and was soon erected as a symbol of a multicultural Germany.

A photo sums up the beautiful story: shirtless and all smiles, Özil shakes hands with former Chancellor Angela Merkel. After the World Cup, Özil signed for Real Madrid, a springboard to the 2014 German triumph in Brazil, where he was paradoxically less attractive than in South Africa. His long hair has disappeared in favor of a wiser cut, the German lends his image to Adidas.

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"I have two hearts"

But his career took a turn in May 2018: Özil and his Mannschaft teammate Ilkay Gündogan, also of Turkish origin, pose in London with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the middle of his re-election campaign. The cliché is controversial, while Berlin accuses Ankara of repressive drift. The Turkish head of state responds by drawing a parallel between contemporary Germany and Nazism. Shortly after, Germany, world champions, were eliminated in the group stage of the Russian World Cup, a humiliation.

Özil becomes the scapegoat of the extreme right. Some German media are also overwhelming him. Dropped by the president of the German Football Association, Özil ended up slamming the door of the Mannschaft in July, for "as long as I (feel) racism and disrespect towards me". "Erdogan is the current president of Turkey and I have to show respect to this person, whoever he is," he said. A year later, Özil chose Mr. Erdogan as his wedding witness when he married a former Miss Turkey, Amine Gülse.

And even if he says the bottom of his thoughts, he is indignant at China's treatment of the Uighur Muslim minority. In response, state broadcaster CCTV deprogrammed an Arsenal match against Manchester City. The Gunners then distanced themselves from Ozil, anxious "not to get involved in politics". On a siding in London, the midfielder had chosen at 32 years old to live his first experience in Turkey by joining Fenerbahçe in January 2021, before joining Basaksehir last summer.