In the immediate fallout of Germany's premature World Cup exit, Oliver Bierhoff, the former German international and current general manager of the national side, has publicly questioned the decision to include Arsenal's Mesut Ozil in the 23-man squad selected to compete in Russia.
A World Cup-winner with Joachim Low's side in Brazil four years ago, Ozil is frequently criticised for his apparent unwillingness to indulge some of the lesser-appealing jobs on the pitch. However, this outlook is usually reserved for his club performances. In Germany, his capabilities command a higher level of respect.
Understandably, it is not necessarily football reasons that have drawn Bierhoff to the conclusion that Germany may have been better off if Ozil had not traveled this time around. In the build-up to this summer's tournament, Ozil, along with his fellow international teammate of Turkish descent, Ilkay Gundogan, were pictured alongside the Turkish President, Tayyip Erdogan.
Received controversially in Germany, RTÉ's Didi Hamann explored the effect this reception had had on the players prior to Germany's opening round defeat to Mexico. For Bierhoff, Ozil's reluctance to react to this response was not wise:
We demand players who go their own way, who make their own statements. We want open and honest statements, not fitted or toned-down statements. But (the) fact is that Mesut, for obvious and specific reasons, could not have said what was demanded from him.
Contrary to Ozil's response, Manchester City's Gundogan acknowledged those complaints; particularly those that came in light of him referencing Erdogan as, 'my president.'
Bierhoff revealed in an interview with Die Welt that "until now we never had to force national team players to do something but always tried to convince them of something," yet, conceded that with Ozil they "did not succeed ... [and] maybe we should have considered being without him [at the World Cup] on a sporting level."
Seeing that Low - and, Bierhoff - will continue in their role within the German set-up until the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, it will be interesting to see whether or not Ozil remains a part of their plans.
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