One in ÖZILlion
With Arsenal fans still delirious about the signing of midfielder Mesut Ozil, Jason Phillips gives us his own version of how record-breaking deal was struck.
With Arsenal fans still delirious about the signing of Mesut Ozil, Jason Phillips gives us his own version of how record-breaking deal was struck.
Jim White and Natalie Sawyer were in shock. The Sky Sports presenters had been covering Deadline Day for years, the traditional market rush fazing no-one – until now. 10:59:56…57…58…59…11:00:00. The transfer market had closed and there was one club, one transfer and one man, who was on everybody’s minds. Mesut Özil was a Gunner…
September 1st 2013 – 6:00pm
Wallet? Check. Phone? Check. Car Keys? Check. Arsène was extra self-conscious on this sunny afternoon at the Emirates. The delirious delight of defeating Tottenham was ringing freshly in the memory, but his mind instinctually told him that work was not finished just yet. “Boss?” Arsène jumped at the sound of Mathieu Flamini, forgetting momentarily that he had not been suffering a case of Déjà vu. “Well done today Mathieu, I was very impressed with your quality in the tackle and on the ball.” Mathieu smiled politely, struggling to suggest to his manager what he had really approached his fellow countryman for.
Arsène swiftly glided out of the hallway and into the car park, only to find chief executive Ivan Gazidis perched suspiciously on his vehicle. “Did you hear that Ivan? Mind the gap, oh mind the gap,” sung Arsène as he firmly shook the hand of a tense Gazidis. “Mr. Wenger. We need to talk.” The Frenchman’s smile subsided, as he realised that the next 29 hours would be the most important of his reign in North London. Le Proffeseur led the way towards Highbury House, giving the occasional piercing look at Gazidis, who was fixated on changing the radio channel, much to the annoyance of the driver. It didn’t take long before the garage doors opened up to the main headquarters, Arsène’s parking space of 18 years warmly greeting his assured presence.
Stomping up the steps to the fifth floor, the breathless men knocked on the roaring red door pedantically. “Secret word,” squeaked a young voice on the other side of the door, testing the patience of Arsène and Gazidis. The boss glanced over at the official nervously, before muttering the phrase, “top, top, top quality.” The door swung open, presenting a modern living room type area, the fire burning ferociously in the corner while a dark figure emerged from his silky seat.
“Class Arsène, top class! I tell you what, after that performance you can go takeover Denver Nuggets! They need a guy like you.” Arsène nodded in the spare of the moment, not knowing which scale of reaction would keep the club’s owner cheerful. “Right, to business. Can my friend here get you a drink?” Arsène peered towards the other side of the room, a waiter with a notepad waiting to hear his superior’s reply. “A cup of tea would be perfect. A little bit milk on the side?”
With not as much as a whisper, the waiter set off, leaving the three men and their scribe to get to work. The Arsenal manager started the proceedings abruptly, declaring that, “we have just beaten a Tottenham team worth over £100 million. I believe that is proof enough that my side has the quality and desire to go on to challenge for this title.” Stanley Kroenke stepped in hurriedly, knowing that these declarations could take up their whole evening. “There’s been a change of heart Arsène. The job you have done for us in the past 18 years has been fantastic, no doubt about that.” Arsène’s heart skipped multiple beats, as the words had foreshadowed an unexpected and unwelcome declaration. “The profits you have made us are outstanding! Top notch. But, I’ve decided to change things up. Capitalising on this win could make all the difference. Buy a player, build the team, win the gold, be the best and we get what we give,” Kroenke continued. Arsène took a long gulp of his tea, slurping as the other men looked at him in confusion. “Mr. Wenger. Do you understand what Stanley is trying to say?” interrupted Gazidis. “£50 million at your disposal in the next day. It’s time to use it. We looked through your wish list and we’ve found the one.” Arsène’s face lit up as he bolted out his chair and looked out towards the stadium through the sparkling clear window. It was his opportunity to regain the faith. To turn the tables. To find the class that was permanent. “Ivan, get Florentino on the phone. I have an important call to make.”
The stars were starting to show their face in the sky, as the manager sat in his armchair staring at the home of Arsenal. 20 minutes passed as he tapped his armrest while occasionally looking at his phone for guidance. The echo of Sky Sports News in his vicinity engrained the words of Gareth Bale’s record- breaking transfer in his head. A statement of ambition. After grasping the courage to press the green button, it felt like an hour before the ringing at the other end of the line terminated and a German accent answered.
“Hallo?” Breathing deeply, Arsène started to speak. “Hello Mesut. This is Arsène Wenger, manager of Arsenal Football Club. Before we discuss the absurdity of this call, please give me the opportunity to explain myself. In 1995, I swapped the joyous Japanese life for a fresh start in England. My close friend David Dein was influential in bringing me to Arsenal, as he told me that the times may be tough, you may be thrown around, screwed around, flipped upside down and round the corner. But, he told me to believe in myself, because he believed in me. We worked as a team, signing stars like Thierry Henry to become one of the greatest players of all time. Winning as a team when The Invincibles basked in their glory. Fighting as a team when the Chelsea Football Club marked their territory by spending big money in challenging the best. What I’m trying to say is, football is a team game. You can win, lose, draw in all aspects of the sport. There are players, referees, managers, fans, the pitch and the ball. But it takes something special to set yourself apart from the rest. Someone special to find that wow factor. Time is ticking as we speak Mesut, the transfer market is giving everyone an opportunity to strengthen where needed. But I believe this side has top, top, top quality that will help us succeed through the tough times. We are getting better every week and beating our rivals today showed that we are here to stay. We are here to play, we are here to fight and we are here to triumph. In 2013, I want you to swap the superb Spanish life for a fresh start in England. I am someone who can be influential in bringing you to the Premier League. The times may be tough; you may be thrown around, screwed around, flipped upside down and round the corner. But, you will believe in yourself. Because Mesut Özil; I believe in you.”
The line went silent, giving the manager the opportunity to hear the hooting horns of the innocent outside world. Checking the status of the phone call, Arsène started to well up, realising that his words had hit a nerve in not just him, but all the men in the room. It was time to say goodbye…
Arsène caressed his coffee as though it was his child, motivating him to succeed in his latest quest. Sitting down in his office chair, he leant back a couple of notches. Leaning forward suddenly, he grabbed his Dictaphone off the desk in anticipation, playing the recording multiple times before grinning gloriously.
“Wo soll ich unterschreiben?” “Wo soll ich unterschreiben?” “Wo soll ich unterschreiben?” “Wo soll ich unterschreiben?”
10:59:56…57…58…59…11:00:00. The transfer market had closed and there was one club, one transfer and one man, who was on everybody’s minds.
Mesut Özil was a Gunner…and Arsène Wenger, was a very happy man.
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