Mesut Özil just the man Man Utd - and Shinji Kagawa - need
With Manchester United boss David Moyes expressing a "need" to bring new faces to Old Trafford before the transfer window closes on September 2, he ought to look no further than Mesut Özil, writes Ross Dunbar.
Widespread reports claim Real Madrid are open to Özil's departure from the Bernabeu this summer, provided United, or any other possible suitor, stumps up £38million.
Much of the transfer window is hinging on Gareth Bale’s record-breaking switch to Madrid with the shockwaves being felt from North London, with Erik Lamela on their radar to replace Bale, to Manchester.
One of Özil’s key strengths is his tactical flexibility. A left-sided player, by nature, the German has experience of playing right-side and has regularly being used centrally at Madrid. His ability to increase the pace of the play, move the ball quicker and become a supporting-attacker is invaluable for breaking tighter defences.
Özil has an outstanding knack of drifting between the lines and finding the space to link midfield and attack effortlessly. His understanding of what is around him is a natural skill, which made him such a classy player at Werder Bremen in a system constructed around a central playmaker.
His 55 assists in 108 matches carved out a star role in Germany’s new-look style at World Cup 2010 and secured him a move to Madrid under then boss Jose Mourinho.
In two of the most famous white shirts on the planet, Özil created 81 goals in 158 games for the Madridistas and has assisted 24 in 47 international caps for Germany. He is the “assist king” of modern football – and the artistry to match it.
Many still continue to dismiss United’s title credentials this season. It’s an intriguing synopsis. After all, boss David Moyes has the ingredients of another championship-winning team at Old Trafford, especially the services of Robin van Persie.
But the development of Danny Welbeck is just as crucial. The English striker, to his credit, has held down an attacking role at United and he could be entering his peak years should Moyes be successful in polishing other areas to his game.
The misconception of Moyes’ first Premier League game confused Ryan Giggs’ task as an attacking-midfielder; not a third central midfielder as such. Özil is a perfect fit for this position, boasting the same intelligence on and off the ball as even the veteran Giggs.
There aren’t many in the Premier League with the same focus and self-confidence to pick up space across the pitch. The German is obsessed by the next move in the game, a second ahead of his opponents which makes his short-passing based game around the 18-yard-box so successful.
Özil's style is akin to that of Japanese ace Shinji Kagawa, with the prospect of these two manipulators linking up, interchanging and wreaking havoc on Premier League defences a mouthwatering prospect for all United fans.
Injuries and often being played out of position hardly helped Kagawa in his first season at United with the player failing to hit the heights we saw during Borussia Dortmund's march to back-to-back Bundesliga titles.
However, the arrival of Özil may just be what he - and United - need, giving them a flexibility and vibrancy in their positional play and attack rarely seen since Cristiano Ronaldo's departure for Madrid in 2009.
Kagawa teamed up with Mario Götze to devastating effect at Dortmund and the addition of Ozil, similarly elusive as the latter, would add another dimension to United's forward line which at times can become a little too predictable, especially against the better sides.
There are no ‘step-ups’ from Madrid in world football’s modern ‘super-club’ environment, but United is as close as it gets to the Bernabeu. The challenges thrown up by the Premier League will be a fascinating test of Özil’s mental ability on the pitch: Can he still be a second ahead of others in the wild tempo of British football?
United’s failure to break the duopoly of German football in the Champions League last season was little surprise. The addition of Özil could go some way to bridging that gap.
The finesse of Özil and Kagawa, the power of Welbeck, and the potency of van Persie has the potential to cook up a vibrant and unpredictable forward line.
All of United’s flaws in the transfer market so far will be forgotten should Özil be unveiled as the first serious addition of Moyes' reign.