Why Man United want Mesut Ozil and why Arsenal won't sell him
Arsenal's Mesut Ozil has less than 18 months left on his contract, so rumours are rife that he may leave the club in the summer with Manchester United reportedly leading the chase.
The Gunners paid £42.4 million for the Germany international, so would try to command a price in the same region while also risking the midfielder leaving for free in 2018. But would Arsenal sell one of their star players to a direct rival like United?
Here is a breakdown of why United are interested and why Arsenal would be reticent to sell.
- Why United want him: To sign a replacement for Wayne Rooney
It's no secret that Rooney's future at the club he joined in 2004 is up in the air. Despite breaking United's all-time scoring record this season, the England captain has increasingly been deployed further back from goal as time has worn on. He has been linked with a lucrative move to China, as well as a less-lucrative move back to his boyhood club Everton. But no matter how many times Jose Mourinho claims that he wants Rooney to stay, all signs point towards a summer exit. With the 35-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic still bossing things up front, and Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial representing the club's next generation of forwards, a deeper-lying player is required to fill Rooney's boots.
Why it won't happen: He's not actually the kind of player United need
All discussion of whether he would or would not move to Old Trafford aside for a second, Ozil may be a top player but United do not actually need another No. 10. For starters they have Henrikh Mkhitaryan who is starting to show the kind of form that made him such a star at Borussia Dortmund, while Juan Mata is also a fine player in that position. Certainly, United are not short of options up front and £89.3m man Paul Pogba could even be pushed into a more advanced role if necessary. The real need for United is at central striker (Antoine Griezmann or Robert Lewandowski), midfield (Toni Kroos or Marco Verratti) and defence (Eric Dier or Raphael Varane).
- Why United want him: To bring in a world-class player and weaken a rival
Arsenal are not the force they once were, but neither are United. Both teams have seen their glorious reputations suffer in the past few years and part of the rebuilding process at Old Trafford is to surround the place with shiny new stars like Pogba and Ibrahimovic. One of the reasons why United might covet Ozil because he is considered one of the best in the world. His contract saga may mean that he won't cost the earth and it would also have the added benefit of putting the knife into a club who have been serious rivals for past two decades.
Why it won't happen: Arsenal would never sell to United -- again
You would think that Arsenal learned their lessons from the £24m sale of Robin van Persie to United in 2012. The Dutchman's goals propelled United to the title in his first season and cast off the tag of 'injury-prone' (if only for one season) to remind Gunners fans that he was actually still a top-class player. While Arsene Wenger is still around the Emirates, he surely would not sanction another player's move to Old Trafford and certainly not now his old rival Jose Mourinho is in the hotseat.
- Why United want him: To reunite him with Mourinho
Even if they fail to seal a Champions League spot this season, one feels that United are building for the future with Mourinho and won't give him the boot this summer. As a result, the club want to sign players with whom he can work well together, and he has experience of Ozil while he was manager of Real Madrid. "Ozil is unique," Mourinho said of the 28-year-old in 2015. "There is no copy of him, not even a bad copy. He is the best No. 10 in the world."
Why it won't happen: His relationship with Mourinho has been a rollercoaster
Ozil moved to Arsenal for one reason: Wenger. It's hard to imagine that his next decision to move clubs would surround Mourinho. The pair endured a tempestuous relationship in Madrid with Mourinho often playing him out wide instead of his No. 10 role, dropping him for a lack of effort, and requiring him to track back and defend. Ozil has stated in the past that he loves the freedom to express himself and revealed in a recent autobiography that Mourinho called him out in front of his teammates for being "too nice to tackle."
Mourinho is one of the best coaches in the world, but one feels that the bridges have been burned for Ozil. There are younger players with more potential, and less baggage, for Mourinho to target; there are other clubs, and managers, more suited to his style, for Ozil.
Jon is a senior editor of ESPN FC, based in London.