D.C. United’s wild day of being involved with every move in world soccer continued this afternoon, as multiple reports linked them to a move for Arsenal playmaker Mesut Ozil. In the aftermath of Wayne Rooney announcing his winter move to Derby County, The Washington Post’s Steve Goff tweeted that United was interested in landing the German international (or Mario Balotelli, a former DCU target) as his replacement:
Also, two names that will come up in the #dcu rumor mill as possible January transfers: Mario Balotelli and Mesut Ozil. Doesn't mean one or the other is on the way, but there has been contact between the sides. Save that for the next #sillyseason.— Steven Goff (@SoccerInsider) August 6, 2019
Goff later mentioned that Özil will have a representative come to the U.S. to have a chat with United’s brain trust in the near future. Goff referred to the contact up to this point as “preliminary.”
One of Ozil's reps will meet with DCU officials next week in Washington, I'm told.— Steven Goff (@SoccerInsider) August 6, 2019
The Athletic’s Pablo Maurer reported similar forthcoming talks between the two sides, while ESPN commentator Taylor Twellman noted that he had heard of some connection between the camps as far back as June of 2018:
Not even done with this Rooney madness and now, sources confirm, representatives connected to Mezut Ozil are slated to visit D.C. United in the upcoming days. I need a cigarette, and I don't even smoke. #DCU #MLS— Pablo Maurer (@MLSist) August 6, 2019
Özil, 30, retired from Germany’s national team after the 2018 World Cup having amassed 92 caps and scoring 23 goals. He was a starter for Germany’s 2014 World Cup-winning side. Özil has played for Arsenal for the last six seasons, appearing as a regular starter in the Premier League as well as the UEFA Champions League. During his time with the Gunners, Özil has been a part of three FA Cup-winning sides.
Before that, he spent three seasons with Real Madrid, playing a major role on the 2011-2012 La Liga champions and helping win the Copa del Rey the year before that. He has had three different seasons leading an elite league in assists (once each in the Bundesliga, La Liga, and the Premier League).
At Arsenal, Özil is coming off of a rather difficult season in which his performance was well below expectations. He chafed under the management of Unai Emery, and his colossal contract (reportedly £350,000 a week, or around $22.1 million per year) is widely seen as an albatross for the north London club.
United is certainly not likely to be spending anywhere in that price range, which is another way of saying that the current interest from the Black-and-Red is a long way away from being anything tangible. Rooney was easily the club’s biggest financial outlay, but Özil would still be taking a huge pay cut assuming United’s budget allowed a roughly similar salary.
Nonetheless, after seeing how much of a difference pursuing a world-famous player with Premier League experience may be part of the club’s modus operandi going forward. While this particular move seems fairly unlikely due to the finances, there’s only one way to find out how viable a deal of this magnitude truly is. Özil may get here, like the area as much as Rooney apparently did, and decide that a few million bucks is more than enough money. Or, more likely, the two sides could have an amiable chat that ends with very different financial packages that are too far apart to carry on further.