Former Bayern Munich and Germany midfielder Lothar Matthaus has told ESPN FC that Mesut Ozil will not be missed following his international retirement, adding “his time to play in the national team is over” based on his recent performances.
Ozil, 29, stepped away from the Germany squad on Sunday, citing racism and lashing out at the president of the German football federation.
The Arsenal midfielder will not add to his 92 caps, 23 goals and 40 assists for his country following political tensions regarding his Turkish roots and his omission from the starting XI during this summer’s World Cup as the defending champions embarrassingly crashed out in the group stage.
Matthaus said Ozil had done “a good job for Germany” in previous years but of late had failed to “hit the same performance” that helped them win the 2014 World Cup, and it was time to move on to new players.
Asked if Ozil would be missed, Matthaus told ESPN FC: “No, we have a lot of good players, and when some player can not perform like before, we have option to give the new generation the chance to help us to make the results like, for example, 2014.”
Ozil was heavily criticised in Germany for his meeting with Turkish president Recep Erdogan in May, when he and Ilkay Gundogan posed for a photo during a visit to London.
And though Matthaus, a World Cup winner with Germany in 1990, said the media coverage around the photograph played its part in Ozil’s decision, he believes Germany would be better served going forward without the Arsenal playmaker’s services.
“I think football is football, politic is politic,” said Matthaus, who met met with Russian leader Vladimir Putin during the World Cup. “Mesut made a good job for Germany in [previous] years but in the last one and a half year he didn’t hit the same performance like four years ago when we won the World Cup in 2014 in Brazil against Argentina.
“I think his time to play in the national team is over. Not because of some picture, of of political decision. It doesn’t matter, I don’t care. I see the football player Mesut Ozil, and he didn’t perform like before.”
Earlier on Monday, Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness accused Ozil of “playing crap for years” and failing to “win a tackle since the 2014 World Cup.”
Matthaus, an ambassador for Bayern Munich during their tour of the United States, said he thought the club’s president Hoeness was letting out frustration over the months of stories about Ozil since the photograph with Erdogan — and added that the Arsenal playmaker was not to blame for Germany’s World Cup exit.
“I never speak against Uli Hoeness, but OK, Uli Hoeness was very angry this morning because this was too much the last two months about Mesut Ozil,” Matthaus said.
“The German team lost the games against Mexico and South Korea, not only Mesut Ozil. But Mesut Ozil was — is a part of this national team. And he’s normally a leader but in the last one, two years, he didn’t show he’s a leader, he didn’t show the right performance.
“And then was coming all the things from outside — include it and everything, and this makes a story.
“But for me, it’s only important [if] Mesut Ozil can help the national team or not, and I have this feeling in the last one and a half year, he never played on this level how we played before, and now it’s time for changes. It’s time for changes!”
Ozil’s agent criticised Hoeness for sidestepping the Ozil’s reasons for leaving Germany, but Matthaus, when asked if the German federation has a racism problem, made his opinion clear.
“No, absolutely no,” he said. “We have so many influences from outside Germany and we say, ‘Welcome all the world to Germany.’ And Mesut was playing the last 10 years in the national team, Sami Khedira was playing a long time in the national team, [Jerome] Boateng, [Serge] Gnabry — so many influences from outside.
“I think we don’t have a problem. He has a problem to find now an answer of this ‘retired from the national team.'”