Mesut Özil: “I cried after leaving Real Madrid.”

Former Real Madrid midfielder Mesut Özil, who recently announced his retirement from football, gave a lengthy interview to MARCA where he reflected on his career. The German spoke about his playing style, why he chose Real Madrid over Barcelona, his relationship with Cristiano Ronaldo and much more. Here’s his interview in full:

His playstyle

“My style was to always try passes and make plays that nobody would expect. I think that’s where the nickname (magician) comes from. And this means that the fans had fun watching me — surely the same as when they go to a magic show.”

“I have scored goals, I have given many assists… And I have also given many pre-assists, that nobody counts. Because the birth of the play is also very important and I tried to be there. For me, the most beautiful thing was to win as a team. I always tried to make my teammates shine to the fullest and I think that was what my playstyle was all about. There came a time when I was very happy making others shine. And I always expected the whole team to think like this: selfishness never wins on the pitch. I never understood people who told me to be more selfish and to shoot more on goal.”

Why he chose Real Madrid over Barcelona

“It was a decision between Real Madrid and Barcelona. And in the end it was not a matter of money. I don’t know if this is known, but I visited Madrid and Barcelona at that time and the difference was José Mourinho. Mourinho gave me a VIP visit to Real Madrid. He took me to see the stadium and all the trophies they had won. That gave me goosebumps. The visit to Barcelona was less enthusiastic and what was more disappointing is that Pep Guardiola didn’t bother to meet me. Before that trip I really liked Barcelona’s style of football and I could really imagine playing with them, but Madrid went all out. So José Mourinho was without a doubt the most important factor in my decision. After my visits, my decision was one hundred percent clear: I wanted to be a Madridista.”

“At that time I was only 21 years old. I had already played in the 2010 World Cup with Germany, I had experience in Europe with Werder… But I had never experienced what I experienced the day of my presentation. That so many photographers and journalists focused only on me was something I had never experienced before. It was not an easy day, I was very nervous. But it was a very special day, there is no other club like Real Madrid when it comes to making presentations. That day you realize that you are on another level.”

Real Madrid fans

“The Madrid fans are really incredible. Even ten years after leaving Madrid, I continue to receive spectacular support and affection from the fans. It’s really amazing. I think we spent three very good years together, three years in which the fans enjoyed themselves and saw that I gave everything for the club. I’m going to be honest, I didn’t expect this support to continue for so long, so I can only thank the Madridistas.”

Relationship with Jose Mourinho

“Everyone already knows my anecdote in the locker room with him [laughs]. But still we have had a great relationship. He always knew how to motivate me, how to make me a better player every day. He is an incredible coach and I am very proud to have been able to play for him.”

Relationship with Cristiano Ronaldo

“It was a lot of fun playing with Cristiano Ronaldo, who for me is the best player of all time. We both understood each other very well on the pitch, it was perfect. I assisted and he scored. Giving passes to a player who almost never missed was a gift.”

Relationship with Sergio Ramos

“Sergio Ramos is the best defender I’ve ever played with. And he had the most character. At that time he was still very young, but he already had a very strong mentality. He was awesome. It was clear that sooner or later he would lead Real Madrid to win a Champions League. He is a real boss. At that time he was one of my best friends. We had a lot of fun together and spent a lot of time together outside of training. He was key to me adapting so quickly at Real Madrid, he helped me a lot. Even more than ten years later we are still in touch: we send each other a message from time to time and, of course, I always follow his career.”

El Clasico memories

“I think I lived through the best period of the Clásicos. Madrid-Barca at its peak. Up to the Champions League semifinals! It was Mou against Pep, Cristiano against Messi… Nowadays El Clásico has lost intensity and emotion, I would say. Beating Barcelona at that time was like an orgasm, because they were incredibly strong. I also have to say that our 5-0 defeat in LaLiga in 2010 was one of my biggest nightmares on the pitch. I have played many games, many derbies, but I think there will be nothing like those Clásicos.”

Winning everything, except the Champions League

“Winning the Champions League has always been one of my dreams, yes. But life is what it is. You can not have everything. And I wouldn’t trade it for the World Cup. Of all the semifinals that I played with Madrid, I would say that the semifinal against Dortmund was the one that hurt me the most. On the one hand, because I am from Schalke, the great rival of Borussia Dortmund [ laughs ]. And on the other hand, because we were close… We lost control in the first leg and they punished us a lot. We were incredibly strong in the second leg, with a unique Bernabéu, but we lacked a goal… That team deserved a Champions League.”

The sadness of leaving Real Madrid

“I was very sad when I left Madrid. I had a great time for three years at Real Madrid and in this city. I was really happy. But things happened. Suddenly, at the beginning of that season, I no longer had many playing minutes and a conflict arose between Mr. Florentino Pérez and my father and agent. We had to look for a new club. It was hard for me. The moment the plane took off, tears fell from my eyes. That was the moment I realized it was over.”

“At that time it seemed good to me to leave, because after the conflict between my father and Mr. Pérez I was worried that I would not have playing minutes again if I did not leave. So it’s hard to say if I would change the decision. But of course, I wish we could have handled the situation at that time differently.”

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