Lukas Podolski has leapt to the defence of close friend and former team-mate Mesut Ozil by insisting the exiled Arsenal playmaker ‘is not an a**hole’.
Ozil was heavily criticised for his decision to reject a year-long pay-cut on his £350,000-a-week wages amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The former German international said that ‘people have been trying to destroy me for two years’ and Podolski, who was a team-mate of Ozil’s at the Emirates Stadium as recent as 2015, feels ‘everyone is losing’ from the way he is being treated.
‘He’s good enough (to be their man man) with support from the coach and the team, but something has happened with the club, you can feel that,’ Podolski told the Athletic.
‘Is he in a disagreement with the club? When I talk to him, we don’t want to talk to him about that kind of stuff. It’s his situation, him and his agent have to deal with that.
‘He’s a good character — he’s not an a**hole. He doesn’t do interviews where he speaks badly of his team-mates or of Arsenal and it’s a shame we have this situation because everyone is losing. Ozil is sat in the stands, Arsenal are paying him and there is no winner.’
Ozil has played no part for Mikel Arteta since football returned after the pandemic as part of Project Restart.
Arteta has insisted that Ozil’s omission from the team since the resumption of the Premier League in June was purely down to footballing reasons.
Ozil had actually started the first 10 Premier League matches of Arteta’s tenure before falling out of favour after lockdown.
The 31-year-old won a spot on the bench on two occasions at Brighton and Southampton, the latter saw him snapped holding an umbrella to shield from the sun in the stands at St Mary’s.
Despite not being in Arteta’s plans, he intends to complete the final year of his Arsenal contract, which expires in 2021.
‘I don’t think Mesut will leave before the summer of 2021,’ Ozil’s agent Erkut Sogut told Fanatik.
‘He’s got an ongoing contract that hasn’t changed. He will stay with Arsenal.’