Mesut Özil's short career at Werder Bremen may be coming to an end, with the inability of club and player to agree on a new deal pushing the 20-year-old German international toward a move.
Özil just completed his second season in Bremen, having slid into the playmaker's role vacated when Diego moved to Juventus. With nine league goals in 31 appearances, Özil helped lead Werder to the finals of the DFB-Pokal and, with a third place league finish, a UEFA Champions League qualification spot.
Now Özil finds himself in the final year of a two-and-a-half-year deal signed when he moved from Schalke 04 in January 2008, meaning he could leave Werder on a free transfer in a year's time. In six months, Özil will be free to sign pre-contract terms with another club. With a market value of around £20 million and contract negotiations failing to produce a new deal, Özil may be in line for a move to one of the continent's big clubs.
It's a scenario confirmed by Klaus Allofs, Werder Bremen's general manager, who expressed guarded optimism in describing the situation:
"We made good progress and were confident that we could fill in the final blanks with the right figures," Allofs said yesterday. "We had our ideas but we have not been able to bring this to an end. We are not angry, no way. We intend to keep on trying."
However, his optimism was short lived as the club's chances of losing their most valuable asset on a free transfer at the end of next season increased. The deflated general manager decided to cut his losses and offered a sign to interested parties that they are now open for business on their star player. After conceding that they "have not found a solution" he added: "I expect bids in the coming weeks or just before the end of the transfer market. We'd rather not see him leave on a free transfer next year."
The destinations most often being linked with an Özil move are Chelsea and Real Madrid, with Manchester United being mentioned less frequently.
It's a list of clubs that implicitly highlights the problem Bremen has in shopping Özil. Even though their asking price is harmed by the player having only one more year left on his deal, Özil's value is such that only a handful of clubs in Europe can afford his price tag. Combined with concerns over whether Özil is a fit for a destination club's system, the list of suitors gets very small. If Werder has to come-off Özil's value too much in order to find a suitor, they would be better served to keep their best player, try to retain their lucrative Champions League spot while hoping for an upturn in negotiations over the next six months.
Amongst the teams being mentioned, Manchester United has the greatest need for a player like Özil, but manager Alex Ferguson has intimated United will go without big signings this summer. Chelsea could have as great a need for Özil if they move away from the formation they used in the latter half of 2009-10, while Real Madrid's room for the German attacker could depend on their willingness and ability to off-load the likes of Kaká and Rafael van der Vaart.
However, it seems Real Madrid may not be willing to wait until their squad is cleared before bringing in Özil. Reports hold Real Madrid coach José Mourinho has already met with the German international.