Mesut Özil, the Arsenal and Real Madrid midfielder who won the World Cup with Germany in 2014, has announced his retirement from professional football aged 34.
Once regarded as one of the best players in the world in his position, Özil won the La Liga title with Real Madrid in 2012 and four FA Cup titles with Arsenal between 2014 and 2020.
He was also part of the Germany squad at the 2010, 2014 and 2018 World Cups and scored 23 goals in 92 appearances for his country.
“I’ve had the privilege to be a professional football player for almost 17 years now and I feel incredible thankful for the opportunity,” Özil wrote on social media.
“But in recent weeks and months, having also suffered some injuries, it’s become more and more clear that it’s time to leave the big stage of football.”
Starting his club career in Germany with Schalke and Werder Bremen, Özil spent three years at Real Madrid and eight with Arsenal before moving to Turkey to play for Fenerbahçe and, most recently, İstanbul Başakşehir.
He developed a reputation as a superb passer and playmaker, recording at least 20 assists in each of his three seasons with Madrid.
At Arsenal, his 19 assists in the Premier League during the 2015/16 season is one shy of the league record held by Thierry Henry and Kevin De Bruyne.
Having arrived in North London for a then club-record fee of $54.8 million, Özil scored 44 goals in 254 appearances for Arsenal but was frozen out of Mikel Arteta’s squad in his final season, despite reportedly being one of the team’s highest-paid earners.
He failed to win more silverware in the final two years of his career in Turkey and had limited playing time with Başakşehir due to injury problems.
Named Germany’s player of the year on five occasions, Özil played in all his country’s World Cup games in 2010 and 2014, when he was an instrumental part of the team that beat Argentina 1-0 in the 2014 final.
He played his final game for the national team at the 2018 World Cup before announcing his international retirement, citing racism and disrespect.
In a lengthy statement explaining the decision, Özil, who is of Turkish descent, said he felt “German when we win” but like “an immigrant when we lose,” with the German Football Federation saying it was “regrettable that Mesut Özil felt that he had not been sufficiently protected as a target of racist slogans.”
Writing on social media on Wednesday, Özil thanked fans, his friends and his family for supporting him throughout his career.
“Now I’m looking forward to everything that is in front of me with me beautiful wife, Amine, and my two beautiful daughters, Eda and Ela – but you can be sure that you will hear from me from time to time on my social media channels,” he said.