Mesut Ozil is adamant he will not leave Arsenal before his contract expires in 2021, insisting he is "going nowhere" despite struggling to convince Unai Emery. Ozil joined Arsenal from Real Madrid in 2013 and for much of that time has been one of the Premier League's best attacking midfielders.
However, he has often had to contend with criticism of his style of play, personality and perceived lack of work ethic, while he made just 20 Premier League starts last term, seemingly not fitting into Emery's system.
Although he enjoyed a positive pre-season, Ozil has played just twice this season in all competitions, his campaign disrupted by injury and when he was the target of an attempted armed robbery in London alongside team-mate Sead Kolasinac.
The combination of underwhelming form and criticism has seen transfer speculation increase, but Ozil insists he will not be forced out before his contract finishes at the end of next season.
"I have a contract until the summer of 2021, and I will be staying until then," Ozil told The Athletic. "When I signed the new deal [in January 2018], I thought about it very carefully and said it was one of the most important decisions of my footballing career."
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"I didn't want to stay for just one or two more years, I wanted to commit my future to Arsenal and the club wanted me to do the same. You can go through difficult times, like this, but that is no reason to run away and I'm not going to. I'm here until at least 2021."
"I said that Arsene Wenger was a big factor in me joining Arsenal – and he was – but ultimately I signed for the club. Even when Arsene announced he was leaving, I wanted to stay because I love playing for Arsenal and that's why I've been here for six years."
"When I moved from Real Madrid, it was a really tough time for Arsenal, but I always believed in what we could do and together we delivered. More recently things have been difficult and a lot has changed, but I'm proud to be an Arsenal player, a fan and I'm happy here."
Some have even gone as far as suggesting Ozil gave up after signing a new contract, but such claims are baseless according to the Schalke youth product.
He said: "If that was true, why did I work so hard and positively during pre-season this year? And why, after the World Cup last year, did I return from holiday early for the first time in my career to start training three days before I was expected back?"
"I did it for the new coach, the team and the club. Maybe people don't like that I have a good contract? I don't know or care."
- OZIL HAS NO REGRETS OVER GERMANY RETIREMENT OR ERDOGAN PHOTO -
Mesut Ozil insists he regrets neither his infamous photo with controversial Turkey president Recep Tayyip Erdogan nor his international retirement that came amid the subsequent furore. Arsenal star Ozil ended his nine-year Germany career in ugly circumstances last year, with the playmaker previously coming in for significant criticism.
In May 2018, Ozil and Germany team-mate Ilkay Gundogan – both of whom are of Turkish descent – met and had photos with Erdogan ahead of Turkey's general election. The move was perceived by some as a show of support for the politician who was re-elected days later despite protests over his government's alleged systematic arrest of journalists, civil rights activists and political opponents.
After the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, where Joachim Low's defending champion made an early exit, Ozil published a letter clarifying the context of the Erdogan photo before then accusing the DFB, its president and other high-profile German officials of racism and disrespect, as he announced his international retirement.
Ozil has no regrets and told The Athletic: "[Erdogan] is the current president of Turkey and I would show respect to that person, whoever it was. Although I was born and raised in Germany, Turkey is part of my heritage."
"If the German president or [chancellor] Angela Merkel are in London and ask to see me, to speak to me, of course I would do that as well. It's just about showing respect to the highest position of a country.
"With time to reflect, I know it was the right decision. It was a very difficult period for me as I played nine years for Germany and was one of their most successful players. I won the World Cup and more, played a lot of games - a lot of them really good - and gave everything.
"I was receiving racist abuse - even from politicians and public figures - yet nobody from the national team came out at that time and said, 'Hey, stop. This is our player, you can't insult him like that'. Everyone just kept quiet and let it happen.
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"It felt like I was expected to apologise for the meeting, admit I'd made a mistake and then everything would be fine; otherwise I was not welcome in the team and should leave. I would never do that.
"Racism has always been there, but people used this situation as an excuse to let it out.
"But what upset me most was the reaction of the school I went to in Gelsenkirchen. I've always supported them and we decided to do a year-long programme together. At the end, I was going to attend a ceremony and meet all of the staff and children, many from immigrant backgrounds.
"Everything was planned, but then the school director told my team I should not come because of the media attention and the rise of the right-wing AfD party in their city.
"I couldn't believe it. My home town, my school. I gave them my hand but they didn't give theirs back. I've never felt so unwelcome.
"I'm proud to still work with one charity, who provide operations for children worldwide, and they stood by me. But the national team chapter is over."