Mesut Özil has responded to recent criticism by saying that he is an experienced player who takes responsibility and that he has earned the trust of his national coach, Joachim Löw, and his club manager, Arsène Wenger. The Arsenal midfielder was singled out, and even booed, by a section of Germany fans during the recent Cameroon friendly but was in confident mood before their World Cup opener against Portugal on Monday.
“I am no longer a talent but an experienced player who has played in three countries. I take responsibility. The FA Cup win means that I have won three finals,” he told Sport Bild. “I was voted Germany player of the year three times running and in the team of the year in England – always by the fans. And that is also important to me.”
Özil had an up-and-down first season in the Premier League but feels he deserves more respect for his performances and he did inject renewed energy into a Germany side struggling against Armenia in their last friendly before the World Cup. In the end Löw’s side won that game 6-1 and are confident they can recover from the blow of losing Marco Reus to injury when they face Portugal.
“I feel that I have the trust of Joachim Löw and Arsène Wenger and that I have earned it,” Özil said. “I am now 25 years old and at that age every footballer in the world plays in a different way to what he did when he was 21. And, of course, my role at Arsenal is different insomuch that I have more responsibility than I did at Real [Madrid]. And I like that.”
Germany’s goalkeeping coach, Andreas Köpke, meanwhile, has played down fears over the fitness of Manuel Neuer. The Bayern Munich No1 injured his right shoulder in the Cup final on 17 May and has not trained with the team since then. He has been preparing on his own, however, and Köpke said the team had chosen not to take any risks.
“He’s regained confidence in his shoulder, he can take the full load,” Köpke said. “He’s really getting along. We did not want to take any unnecessary risks, we thought it was better for him to start training with the team a day later than to risk aggravating the injury. I’ve watched him train and I know he is 100% fit and ready to play. We still have a few days to prepare for the match.”