Monday 19 August 2019

Özil's thoughts on integration arrive at opportune time

Gunning For Greatness: My Life
Gunning For Greatness: My Life

Book review - Alan Aherne

I'm not a great fan in general of autobiographies written by sporting stars before retirement, quite simply because it's only natural to wonder if the reader is merely getting an abridged version.

After all, I'm sure the book's subject has to consider the implications of having a go at somebody they might encounter on the playing field in the near future.

One of the more bizarre books of this nature in recent years was the one penned by Donegal footballer Rory Kavanagh who released it after announcing his retirement, but then decided to return for another season on the inter-county merry-go-round after all.

However, while I'm not enamoured by these offerings, I can understand perfectly why professional sportspeople in particular would get their thoughts on the bookshelves while they're still active.

Clearly the thinking is to strike while the iron's hot and to make the most of one's market value. There's serious money to be made when a star is in the limelight, and it's certainly no coincidence that soccer player Mesut Özil has called his recent release 'Gunning For Greatness: My Life'.

If that wording doesn't convince Arsenal fans to part with more of their hard-earned cash, then it won't be for the want of clever thinking on the publisher's part.

As far as upsetting potential future opponents goes, the German international labels David Villa a coward for slapping him from behind during an El Clasico before he joined the Gunners from Real Madrid.

Özil was 28 years old at the time of writing this book, so chances are that a player of his calibre will have at least five more good years at the top level if he remains injury-free. Bearing that in mind, don't be surprised if this isn't the last time he will put pen to paper so to speak.

Given the society we now live in, his thoughts on integration are very interesting to be fair given that he is of Turkish origin. It meant that when he started to attract attention with his first two clubs, Schalke and Werder Bremen, the country of his parents' birth as well as Germany were keen on securing his services for international duty.

While he gave the matter considerable thought, in the end he felt it was only right that he should opt to represent the place where he was born and bred, albeit in the heart of the Turkish community in Gelsenkirchen.

The importance of massaging a superstar's ego is also evident in this book. Özil had a choice of joining either of the two Spanish super-powers, and he opted for Real Madrid over Barcelona purely because Jose Mourinho showed more of a personal interest in him than the more stand-offish Pep Guardiola who didn't meet him face-to-face.

Similarly, a phone call made to Özil three years earlier by Arsene Wenger, who speaks fluent German, was remembered when he was growing restless in Spain. It had gone along the lines of the Arsenal boss suggesting he should make contact with him if he was ever thinking of another move.

That's exactly what happened, and Özil has been 'Gunning For Greatness' ever since.

Mourinho remains his number one manager though, writing the foreword for this book even though he cut him to shreds at half-time in a Real game once, so much so that Özil took his jersey off and headed for the showers in disgust as outlined in the prologue.

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