James Rodriguez and Mesut Ozik Have a Intertwined On the superstardom
There are some players who seem to operate forever on the periphery of superstardom. Take James Rodriguez and Mesut Ozil, for example.
Back in 2014, James had just picked up the World Cup golden boot, while Ozil had won the World Cup itself with Germany. A year earlier, Ozil had left Real Madrid for Arsenal in what was a remarkable coup for the Gunners, and now James looked set to fill the German’s boots as he moved from Monaco to the Bernabeu.
Five years on, both players find themselves stranded between greatness and mediocrity. Too good and too successful to be considered flops, they have also never quite achieved the level of stardom many expected.Their fates, meanwhile, remain intertwined. As Arsenal desperately try to shunt Ozil off their wage bill this winter, James, now at Bayern, has suddenly emerged as a candidate to replace him.
After an acrimonious summer with the national team, Ozil had hoped to find refuge in club football. Instead, he has fallen foul of a power struggle with Unai Emery and is fast becoming persona non grata at the Emirates.
James has struggled to get on with new Bayern coach Niko Kovac. The Colombian took to life at Bayern under Jupp Heynckes, but now once again finds himself in direct competition with Thomas Muller, and is expected to push for a move if the German side cannot guarantee him game time.
Having come to Munich to revive a career which had stuttered at Real, James has no interest in warming the bench at Bayern. Would a move to Arsenal not be the next breath of life his career needs? Is this fragile Arsenal side not crying out for such a star?
He would also come cheap, at least by English standards. With James approaching the end of a two-year loan deal at Bayern, Arsenal could end up shelling out just a few million to cover the remainder of the loan fee. His wages, meanwhile, are reportedly less than £6m a year, a fraction of what Arsenal pay Ozil.Yet Arsenal fans should not get carried away just yet. Bayern, who face a gruelling title race this spring, have no reason to give up James. While his relationship with Kovac was fraught in the autumn, the Colombian was apparently the star student at Bayern’s winter training camp in Doha, and the club are yet to give up on him entirely.
‘When he is on top form, he can decide a game on his own,’ said sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic of James this week. ‘He needs to get back to that level, and we will support him.’
Bayern appear undecided as to whether they want to use the option to buy and sign James for just under £40m in the summer. Salihamidzic, though, has categorically ruled out the idea that they would sign him and immediately sell him on.
‘That’s not Bayern’s style,’ he said. ‘If we decide to sign such a player, then he will remain part of Bayern Munich.’
Such comments don’t scream of an impending loan deal. And besides, Arsenal would presumably have to offload Ozil before they made a move for James. That, too, may not prove as simple as it looks.Where, after all, would Ozil go? A return to Germany is out of the question, not just because of Ozil’s difficult relationship with his home country. Bayern would be the only Bundesliga club able or willing to match Ozil’s wage demands, but there is zero chance of them doing so. President Uli Hoeness has been one of Ozil’s most bullish critics, claiming last year that the Arsenal player has ‘played like shit for years’.
Serie A seems the only plausible option, and Ozil may certainly relish a reunion with Cristiano Ronaldo at Juventus. Yet, like James, he may be wary of simply moving from one bench to another. After his turbulent year, there are few top clubs at which Ozil could be sure of walking into the first team.
Thus both players remain in their curious no-man’s-land. Too expensive and too big for the smaller clubs, they both face a struggle to assert themselves at one of Europe’s elite. Whatever their respective moves in this transfer window or the next, it seems James and Ozil are doomed to their fate: to linger forever on the peripheries of greatness.