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The 31-year-old attacking midfielder has become one of the most polarising players in modern football. While his creative play on the pitch has made one half of football fans adore him, some of the controversies surrounding him off the pitch have made the other half hate him.
Arsenal star Mesut Özil will allegedly lose his $27 million sponsorship contract with Adidas, according to the German newspaper Bild. The seven-year deal, signed in 2013, saw him switch from Adidas’ rival, Nike. According to Bild, the sports giant reportedly doesn’t want to extend its contract with Özil due to controversial decisions that the athlete has made in recent years that have tarnished his public image.
In May 2018, Özil, who is a third-generation Turkish-German, was pictured with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ahead of the presidential elections in the country. The photo was interpreted as a form of support for Erdogan, whose domestic policies have in recent years been criticised by European countries, in particular by Germany.
The image also prompted debate over whether the athlete lacked loyalty to the country where he was born and lived. Özil described his meeting with Erdogan as a sign of respect to the president of his family’s country.
AP Photo / Fabio Ferrari
Following Germany’s sensational loss at the 2018 Football World Cup in Russia, which saw the team fail to qualify for the knockout stage (something that had never happened before in the country’s history), Özil quit the national team, claiming that the media and sports pundits had made him a scapegoat for Germany’s fiasco. “I’m German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose”, Özil said, announcing his decision.
This sparked huge criticism from the media and fans, who again brought up his photo with Erdogan and accused the athlete of treason. Most recently, the athlete drew ire for a political comment that he made about the alleged mistreatment of Uighur Muslims in China and for his refusal to accept a 12 percent pay cut to help the club and the English Premier League during the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused a severe economic slowdown. Özil, Arsenal’s top paid player, reportedly earns $440,000 a week.
If Adidas doesn’t extend his deal, it will be the second sponsorship agreement that Özil will have lost. In 2018, Mercedes decided not to renew their contract with him when it expired.