Mesut Ozil Lifts Lid on Learning to Play in a Concrete Cage, THAT Offer From China & Why He Said No

Jamie Spencer
90Min

​ Arsenal play-maker Mesut Ozil has credited his humble football upbringing on Gelsenkirchen's small concrete 'monkey cage' pitches for developing his technique and close control in tight spaces, not least because he would often be playing against older boys.


Known as the affenkäfig, Ozil told Goal, "Where I started, the surroundings were not easy. The floor was cement and, if you fell, you immediately started bleeding. But it helped, especially because I always played against older boys on that very little space.

Burnley v Arsenal - Premier League

"You need to be skilled for that. For my development this was precious," he added.

"The most important thing when you are a kid is to have fun. If you are talented and you have a little luck, you will march your own way and nobody can stop you. You need to work on yourself, have self-belief and have fun. Then, you can make your dream come true."

Ozil's ability to keep the ball under control was never more prominent than when he scored one particularly noteworthy goal against Ludogorets Razgrad in the Champions League earlier this season - a strike he is very proud of, comparing it to playing a video game.

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"I'm proud of quite a few of my goals but that one against Ludogorets was like on PES! Passing three or four opponents and then scoring. When I watch it, I think it was the best goal of my career," the 2014 World Cup winner explained.

Ozil's Arsenal future continues to remain up in the air. The 28-year-old is due to be out of contract at the end of next season and appears no closer to signing a new deal. He admitted that money is not a motivating factor for him, though, and it is for that reason that playing in China is of no interest, despite receiving a relatively recent bumper offer.

"Money never played a big role for me in football," Ozil explained, perhaps again indicative of his humble and grounded upbringing - his father worked in a factory and his mother was a cleaner when he was growing up.

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"I play football because I love it," he continued.

"Sure, you do not earn peanuts and the offer from China (£100m over five years) was tempting and interesting. But as I said: money is not everything. I want to win titles and I have my goals I want to achieve. That is more important than money. That's why I said from the beginning, that China is not an option for me."

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