Mesut Ozil has spoken out for the first time since being exiled from the Arsenal squad, insisting he has no intention of leaving the club and refuses to ‘let people destroy him’ amid criticism after rejecting a pay cut.
The Gunners star, who earns £350,000-a-week, has not played a single minute since football restarted and did not join the rest of the squad in taking a 12.5 per cent pay cut as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has made it clear Ozil is not part of his plans moving forward and the club are desperate to shift him off their wage bill.
However, in a defiant interview with The Athletic, the 31-year-old dismissed any idea he will leave before his deal expires next June.
“My position is clear,” Ozil said. “I’m here through to the last day of our agreement and I’ll give everything I have for this club.
“I’ll decide when I go, not other people.
“I didn’t sign for two or three years, I signed for four and that should be respected by everyone.
“Things have obviously been difficult but I love Arsenal, I love to work there, I love the people in the club — the real people, those I’ve been with for a long time — and I love London, it’s my home.
“Whatever happened in the last two seasons, I’m happy and very strong mentally. I never give up on anything. I want to help my team and I’ll fight for it. If I’m fit, I know what I can do on the pitch.”
Ozil also offered an explanation as to why he refused to join his teammates in taking a pay-cut, admitting that while it might’ve been a factor in his lack of game time since the restart, he still believes it was right.
The former Germany international suggests the reaction to his decision is part of a wider effort to ‘destroy’ him in the court of public opinion.
“As players, we all wanted to contribute,” Ozil said. “But we needed more information and many questions were unanswered. Everyone was fine with a deferral while there was so much uncertainty — I would have been OK to take a bigger share — and then a cut if required, once the football and financial outlook was clearer. But we were rushed into it without proper consultation.
“For anyone in this situation, you have a right to know everything, to understand why it is happening and where the money is going. But we didn’t get enough details, we just had to give a decision. It was far too quick for something so important and there was a lot of pressure.
“This was not fair, especially for the young guys, and I refused. I had a baby at home and have commitments to my family here, in Turkey and in Germany — to my charities, too, and also a new project we started to support people in London that was from the heart and not for publicity.
“People who know me know exactly how generous I am and, as far as I’m aware, I was not the only player who rejected the cut in the end, but only my name came out. I guess that’s because it is me and people have been trying for two years to destroy me, to make me unhappy, to push an agenda they hope will turn the supporters against me and paint a picture that is not true.
“Possibly the decision affected my chances on the pitch, I don’t know. But I’m not afraid to stand up for what I feel is right — and when you see what has happened now with the jobs, maybe I was.”