Taking control of a squad of superstar comprised of a multitude of egotistical talents is a reality which every top football manager, Unai Emery included, has to face up to, and the situation which is unfolding with Mesut Ozil at Arsenal serves to prove how disruptive fractured relations between player and manager can be.
Emery is no stranger to high-profile feuds: his time in charge of Paris Saint-Germain was marred at times by reports concerning a fallout with Neymar – the club’s most influential and internationally regarded superstar.
While Ozil has not been causing a stir in the media with outlandish or unprofessional comments, the fact he hasn’t started a single match for the Gunners since he was withdrawn at half-time against Brighton on Boxing Day suggests something is afoot.
Arsenal’s decision to extend Ozil’s deal and offer him £350,000 per week wages (as per Spotrac) has since been labelled as knee-jerk and desperate, partly in consequence of Emery’s recent snub. The main caveat of the contractual agreement is this: any potential suitor that wants Ozil will be scared off by his wages demands, but the club will remain hamstrung in the market until he is off their books.
However, according to a recent report from the Daily Star, Inter Milan are interested in signing Ozil on loan this month, although they are only willing to pay half of his reported weekly wage.
That claim has emerged in tandem with a report from Sky Sports (via Sky in Italy) which claims Ivan Perisic has handed in a transfer request at the San Siro following the Nerazzurri’s decision to reject Arsenal’s offer of a loan with an option to buy clause.
Perisic does not represent a like-for-like replacement for Ozil as his preference is to operate out wide rather than at number ten, but if Arsenal were able to conclude a short-term swap deal for the two players it would be an excellent move for the club.
The problem for Emery is that speculation surrounding his relationship with Ozil is bound to become an unwelcome source of speculation for the club this season. Star quality is rare to come by and Ozil undoubtedly possesses that in abundance, but his extortionate contract will cripple the club in the transfer market if they are unable to offload him in the near future.
By allowing Ozil a fresh opportunity to shine with Inter Milan they will effectively place him in the shop window for the final months of the season, and that may facilitate the emergence of a buyer to prise him away from the Emirates in the summer.
Perisic, on the other hand, would not command a wage as obscene as Ozil’s but he would provide a comparable touch of genius in the final-third.
The Croatia international – as England fans know all too well – is a big player for the big occasion. With his national side 1-0 down and staring semi-final defeat in the face last summer, Perisic stepped up to prove he has the appetite for the greatest footballing challenges.
First he timed his dash across the face of goal perfectly to poke a wicked cross beyond Jordan Pickford in regulatory time, saving Croatia from elimination in the process, and as the eventual finalists began to seize the initiative he provided Mario Mandzukic with the opportunity to fire his side into a decisive 2-1 lead.
It was a performance characterised by a determination and desire to take initiative for his nation’s destiny under the manacles of intense individual and collective pressure. It wouldn’t be out of place to argue the grit he showcased was superior to anything Ozil has ever showed during his time in north London, and that acknowledgement is enough to suggest that a potential swap deal would be a progressive step for Emery to take.
Whether a swap deal agreement can be reached remains to be seen, but it might just be the perfect arrangement for all parties concerned under the present circumstances.
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