Mesut Ozil claims in his new autobiography that the physical nature of the English game makes it a sterner challenge than the “elegant” Spanish league.
The Arsenal playmaker, whose future with the embattled club is still uncertain, given his reluctance to continue with contract negotiations until he receives clarity on the future of Arsene Wenger, says that the aggressive nature of the Premier League has caused his body severe pain.
"The Premier League is the toughest challenge I’ve experienced in football," Ozil says in Gunning for Greatness: My Life.
"If you can’t take it here, without whining, then you’re history. It’s something I had to get to grips with in the first few weeks and months after my switch from Real Madrid," the 28-year old, who started his career in the Bundesliga, writes.
"Whereas in Spain the entire game is based on elegant ball play — even teams from lower leagues try the same — in England you have scratching, biting and fighting. In England, football is one tackle after another. There’s barely any respite.
"Generally this doesn’t happen in Spain because the ball is constantly on the move. Pass, pass, pass. The opponent rarely has the opportunity to intervene because the ball is already on the other side of the pitch.
"In England, you fail to notice how hard it is during the game itself and how many attacks the body sustains. You’re so full of adrenaline that you don’t feel the pain. But then, under the shower, you discover the ‘misery’. After some matches, my shins have looked as if someone has gone at them with a hammer, covered in blue marks.
"I’ve had scratches on the neck and bruises on my back, shoulders and chest from opponents’ elbows welcoming me into the Premier League when the referee wasn’t watching.
"We complain so that the next time he’ll watch more carefully and spot if we’re kicked or elbowed. I do this just like Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben or Lionel Messi — all players who get kicked a lot because opponents are trying to disrupt their rhythm and because sometimes it’s the only way to stop them.
"But, to my great surprise, I was forced to realise that even the English referees have their very own form of communication. In my early days at Arsenal, they dismissed my appeals in a way that made me think I’d misheard them. They’d say things such as ‘Don’t whinge. You’ve got to deal with it. Welcome to the Premier League.’"
"Sledging from the opposition. Cutting comments from refs. And football that’s harder than anywhere else — that’s the Premier League. That’s English football," Ozil said. "And that’s the football I’ve got used to and love today.
"At Arsenal I’ve grown tougher. I’ve learned to take so much more. I’ve toned a few more muscles than during my time at Real Madrid so I’m in a better position to meet the physical challenges."