Mesut Özil and Cristiano Ronaldo: a partnership which has gone under football history's radar
By Rob Worthington
When looking back on world football since the turn of the century, a few iconic partnerships spring to mind. Brazil’s Ronaldo and Rivaldo of the 2002 World Cup, Arsenal’s fearsome striking duo of the 03/04 season of Henry and Bergkamp and Wayne Rooney and Ruud van Nistelrooy struck up a fantastic partnership in the 2005/06 season for Manchester United. In more recent times, Barcelona’s famous trio of Messi, Suarez and Neymar between 2014 and 2017 portrayed all the signs of one of football’s greatest ever trios.
Nonetheless, a partnership which has been left underappreciated is Real Madrid’s duo of Mesut Özil and Cristiano Ronaldo. Now, you’re probably wondering why on earth I am writing about this on an Arsenal themed website, however, don’t you worry, I’ve got two justifiable reasons for why I have chosen to write about this today.
Firstly, unfortunately for us football writers, there isn’t actually an array of content for us to go on about, meaning I’ve had to think a little outside the box. And secondly, Mesut Özil is an Arsenal legend, and we shouldn’t be so short sighted as to solely celebrate his achievements with Arsenal. Instead, we should celebrate and claim every single one of his career achievements (including the World Cup win).
I was inspired to write this article when I stumbled across a quote from Cristiano Ronaldo when I was creating a post about Özil for my Arsenal Instagram page. The quote read: “Mesut Özil made me the world’s best striker.” So, here I shall try to explain exactly how our very own Mesut Özil helped Ronaldo reach that level.
Well, let’s begin by looking at the raw figures. Mesut Özil provided the Portuguese superstar with a monumental 27 assists during the pair’s time together in Madrid. To provide a bit of context to why this is so phenomenal, only Karim Benzema provided Ronaldo with more assists than Özil during CR7’s time with the Spanish Giants. Benzema played with Ronaldo for a grand total of 10 seasons, Özil partnered the Juventus talisman for just three. If the pair carried on going at the same rate for ten seasons, Özil would have provided 90 assists for Ronaldo (I recognise that is a big if). Absolutely ridiculous numbers.
The pair’s overall form also suggests they played better when they were together. During the 2010-11 season, Özil’s first season with the Madristas, Cristiano Ronaldo scored his best ever 38 league goals, and over the course of their three seasons together, the Arsenal number 10 registered 48 assists in 83 games, alongside 19 goals. Let’s ignore Ronaldo for a second and appreciate just how good the German world cup winner was for Real, with 67 goal contributions in just 83 matches. An average of 0.8 goal contributions per game. Right now we analysing numbers which most refer to as ‘Messi and Ronaldo numbers’, no wonder why Ronaldo stated that ‘I’m angry about Özil leaving’ in 2013. I think that’s a little bit of an understatement Cristiano.
If anything, these facts and figures show what a brilliant signing Özil was for Arsenal in 2013. The German seriously could’ve gone anywhere he wanted to do. He was right up there with the best in the world at this point in footballing history. Whilst it’s clear that Özil is now on the decline, let’s not let his high wage and at times questionable attitude cast a shadow over what has been a brilliant career.
It is true Özil only really hit the heights of his time with Madrid at Arsenal during the 2015/16 season, when he delivered a personal best of 20 assists in all competitions, we cannot deny that we have been very lucky to have watched Özil deliver his magic at the Emirates over the course of the last seven seasons.
Don’t get me wrong, the prime aim of this article was to show you just how majestic a partnership Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Özil shared during their time together in Madrid, and I hope I have accurately depicted that. However, I must admit that I have found myself slipping into awe of Mesut Özil. Nevertheless, I will not apologise for this, as much as he frustrates me these days, Özil’s mark on Arsenal Football Club and world football cannot be underestimated. A genius of the game.