Picking Mesut Ozil in Germany's World Cup squad might have been a mistake - Bierhoff
German Football Association general manager Oliver Bierhoff has admitted it could have been a mistake to take Mesut Ozil to the World Cup amid the controversy involving Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The day before the announcement of Germany's preliminary squad, Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan had their picture taken with Erdogan during the president's visit to London, sparking a barrage of criticism.
But while Gundogan published a statement on social media committing himself to "German values," Ozil remained quiet throughout and became a topic of debate, and Bierhoff told Die Welt that as a result the federation should have handled the situation differently.
"I believe that the team wasn't so bothered about the fact that Mesut and Ilkay were in the photos," Bierhoff told the newspaper. "But the [media] debate just wouldn't stop. In hindsight, I would have tried to deal with this issue in a more decisive manner."
And Bierhoff said the controversy reached a point where the federation should have considered leaving Ozil out of the squad when the player declined to address the matter.
"We should have considered passing on him," Bierhoff said. "We have never forced national team players to do something, but rather always tried to convince them.
"We failed to do that with Mesut. And thus, we should have considered to pass on him for sporting purposes.
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"But you also have to note that Mesut could not just say what was expected of him due to certain and evident reasons. Ilkay Gundogan talked, and by doing so opened himself up, but yet he was still strongly criticised."
With relations between Germany and Turkey poor, the photo sparked a large debate in Germany over the integration of Turkish migrants, an ongoing issue in German politics. Both Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier met with the players, and Merkel said they "belong to the national team."
Ozil was a target for abuse from Germany's far right, and xenophobic abuse was aimed at him. A representative of the player told ESPN last week that they received more than 200 abusive emails.
Already under pressure from external factors, Ozil was then made a scapegoat for Germany's early World Cup exit after being dropped from the starting XI for their final group-stage game against Sweden.
No player has yet announced their retirement from international football, and a source told ESPN that Ozil is yet to make up his mind whether he wants to continue to represent Germany in such a toxic environment.
Bierhoff told Die Welt that "we won't name and shame singular players or staff members. That's not the way we treat people who achieved a lot for us over many years."