Germany midfielder Mesut Oezil moved to Real Madrid this summer but in terms of acceptance by his new supporters, he finally arrived earlier this month when a stellar performance endeared him to the Bernabeu faithful.
Oezil was afforded a standing ovation at the Bernabeu
Real Madrid's season finally burst into life just before the international break with a thrilling 6-1 victory over Deportivo La Coruna which had the home fans purring with delight; a response that should not be underestimated by any means.
Ever since Jose Mourinho took over the reins of the Spanish giants there has been trepidation in the stands that his will be a stifling, grinding Real Madrid team, created in the same image of the Portuguese coach's previous Champions League winners, the defensive-minded Porto and Inter Milan. Jose is a winner - of that there is no doubt - but his teams often fail to get the heart racing. Winning has never been enough for Real fans - they need to win with panache and ruthlessness.
There is no question that the Madridistas now have a coach capable of returning silverware to the Bernabeu's trophy cabinet but now the massively-demanding army of white-shirted fanatics may have found a player of exquisite style to provide the other side of their eternal equation.
Mesut Oezil left the pitch last weekend to a standing ovation from the Madrid supporters after producing a performance which bristled with urgency, creativity and passion.
"Oezil has made an understated, but encouraging beginning to his career at the Santiago Bernabeu," Paul MacDonald, the Spanish correspondent for Goal.com International, told Deutsche Welle. "His displays have been generally regarded as a positive element of what were, in the main, sterile displays in the final third in Real's early games."
"Kaka's long-term absence has instilled Oezil as the first-choice attacking midfielder at the club, and with promising Spanish prospect Sergio Canales suffering an early season spell on the sidelines, the former Werder man looks likely to be the creative force from the centre of the pitch for the majority of the season."
The Germany midfielder may be struggling with the language of his new home but he appears to have understood exactly what his new fans desire. It is very early in the young midfielder's Madrid story to say for sure but the former Werder Bremen man appears to have been taken to the hearts of the fickle Madridistas who have christened him El Búho – The Owl. Time will tell if he stays there.
"The Bernabeu audience appreciate his ability to select a pass and his attractive mentality, which is as necessary to many Madridistas as any victory," said MacDonald. "However, he's not making front page news just yet but there are enough signs to suggest that his transfer will prove to be a rare piece of shrewd business from the Spanish giants in their recent history."
Oezil's style made to order for Madrid faithful
Mourinho knew exactly what he was getting when signing Oezil
Of course, Mourinho knew what he was getting when he paid 15 million euros for Oezil after a summer spent terrorizing defences at the World Cup. However, despite witnessing Oezil's exploits with Germany in South Africa, the Real fans needed longer to be convinced of the qualities of this slightly built 21-year-old German of Turkish origin. His early display hinted at what was to come. Against Deportivo, Oezil provided the final piece of evidence.
After a pinpoint corner found Cristiano Ronaldo's head in the fourth minute, giving the Portuguese star the perfect opportunity to open the scoring, Oezil grew in stature and confidence. He marauded through the shell-shocked Deportivo team at will, driving Madrid forward with a style missing from previous incarnations. Ponderous build-ups are a thing of the past now that Oezil is in the Real team; the youngster now has the job of increasing the pace and scaring the living daylights out of defences more used to sedate afternoons.
His Real team mates seem to respond to Oezil's desire to attack. Ronaldo looks happy to have a flair player playing off him again while Argentinean winger Angel di Maria, another new signing, has also struck up an understanding with the German. Both players shone against Deportivo as Oezil continually brought them into play and provided them with opportunities.
"His dependency on his left foot bears a slight resemblance to revered playmaker Guti, and the 4-2-3-1 formation that Mourinho is currently operating sees him employed in his optimal position behind a main striker, Gonzalo Higuain," said MacDonald. "A concern may be Cristiano Ronaldo's tendency to cut across the pitch, stifling his space, and forcing Oezil into unfamiliar areas of the pitch in order to collect the ball. However, as Ronaldo's self-dependency erodes under the tutelage of Mourinho, Oezil should be allowed to flourish."
Mesut speaks the language of love to newly adoring fans
Oezil will enjoy adoration if he can replicate his Germany form
The fact that Oezil scored Real's second goal in the drubbing of Deportivo – his first for his new team – was just rewards for a performance which saw him involved in everything that was good for his new club side. The effort and commitment, sometimes lacking from Real teams which became bloated with star value and weighed down by ego, did not go unnoticed by the Bernabeu crowd.
"I was proud to hear the applause from the audience, really proud," Oezil told Spanish daily newspaper, Marca. "The crowd is helping me a lot but also all the team. I always want to give the best I can on the field and hope people will continue to be happy with my football, but most importantly because the team has won."
Oezil's footwork has done much to endear him to the Madrid supporters but his words also show that he is beginning to understand the language of Real, even if his Spanish is stuttering at best.
"We want to win everything, including the Champions League, and I urge the fans to trust us," he enthused. "Mourinho motivates us a lot but he also demands the utmost from his team. I enjoy playing here and it shows on the field."
Author: Nick Amies
Editor: Matt Hermann