The summer transfer window might have ended over a month ago, but that does not stop clubs actively looking and making plans for the January transfer window.
One rumour in particular that is circulating is Manchester United’s apparent interest in Arsenal’s Mesut Özil. The German World Cup winner’s contract comes to an end on 30 June 2018, and he is free to sign a pre-contract in January with European clubs thanks to the Bosman ruling.
While United will want to wait until next summer to sign Özil on a free transfer, there is nothing stopping Arsenal selling him for cash in January – providing they can find a buyer willing to match their valuation.
José Mourinho has previously worked with Özil at Real Madrid, to which some argue is where the attacking midfielder played his best football. It was the Madrid hierarchy, as it normally is, that eventually decided to sell Özil and replace him with Gareth Bale.
Like with any transfer rumour, there is a pinch of salt to be sprinkled on it, but this is not so far-fetched given the circumstances. Özil has one season left at Arsenal under his current contract, and there does not appear to be an extension on the horizon. The signs point to the German international leaving the Gunners.
Where would Mesut Ozil fit in at Manchester United if Jose Mourinho persuade him to leave Arsenal?
While Manchester United have attacking midfielders – namely Juan Mata and Henrikh Mkhitaryan – that would not put Mourinho off linking up with one of his former key players.
Given the fact that this looks set to be Zlatan Ibrahimović’s last season in Manchester, there is room for more attacking players. However, to occupy the number 10 role, in which Özil does, one of Mata or Mkhitaryan would also possibly have to leave to justify the signing.
A rare scenario could unfold in which the Mata permanently stays as a wide-right player with Özil and Mkhitaryan rotating the role of the number 10 position. On paper, it sounds like it could be manageable, but in reality, there is bound to be a struggle keeping everyone singing from the same hymn sheet.
The attraction of signing the Arsenal midfielder is the fact he is on a free transfer. His wages will be near the top end of United’s wage bill, but that is expected of a high profile player arriving without paying a fee.
If United were genuinely interested in him, they would surely be the front runners to sign him. Arsenal were open to recouping a similar fee to what they paid for him, £42m, but no clubs were willing to match such a valuation over the summer, and so he stayed put.
As a free transfer, a lot more clubs will make their interest apparent, but some will be priced out due to wages. There will be a number of European super clubs lining up for him, but the attraction of working under Mourinho again, in the Champions League, and playing at a top club in England would be too good to turn down.
Özil has been criticised for ghosting in-between games and not directly influencing them, but when working under Mourinho at Madrid, with the forward line of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Ángel Di María, the German assisted 24 times – the most in Europe that season.
The former Madrid player also registered 10 goals in his final season at Madrid – the most during his time in Spain. There is no doubt about it that with a quick forward line ahead of him, Özil operates at a different level.
Under Mourinho’s guidance, Özil tallied a huge amount of goals and assists in his three seasons at Los Blancos. In 2010/11, his first year, he scored 10 goals and claimed 29 assists. In his second, it was seven goals and 29 assists. And you already know what was done in his final year in Madrid.
Outrageous numbers from a very talented individual. We saw with Nemanja Matić how much of an influence certain managers can have on a player, and the same could be said with Özil.
With the likes of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Romelu Lukaku to pick out, Özil would have an absolute field day, and there would be an inclination to suggest he can break Thierry Henry’s Premier League assist-record of 20 in one season.
Mourinho clearly understands where Özil’s strengths lie and built a team to compliment his natural playing style. The Portuguese boss has taken his 4-2-3-1 formation from Madrid and adapted it for Man United. Having Özil in the hole, just behind the centre forward, in this case, Lukaku, would allow the German the freedom to pick out three players ahead of him.
Any potential deal is a long way off at this point, but Mourinho is said to certainly be monitoring the situation. One thing we know about the Man United boss is that his trust and faith in players is not misguided. He brought Matić back under his wing and he could well do the same with Özil.