Mesut Ozil was officially presented to the world as a Fenerbahce player, the club he supported as a boy, on Wednesday after having his Arsenal contract terminated.
The 2014 World Cup winner with Germany, where he was born and raised by his Turkish immigrant parents, met all of the requirements for any decent player unveiling: he signed his three-and-a-half-year contract at a table in front of a giant crest of his new club, gave a thumbs up to the assembled media, held up the club’s jersey and expressed his happiness to be on board.
“I do not know what to say because I am very excited and very happy,” Ozil said. “As our club president [Ali Koc] said, it was a dream for Fenerbahce and it was a dream for me. It will be a wonderful connection. So I am very happy. Hopefully, I will be happy to help the team on the field with my talent.
“I hope we will have a successful season as a team. I believe in Fenerbahce. I have always believed in Fenerbahce as a fan.”
Ozil’s former Gunners teammates had already decided who would get his old No. 10 shirt before his plane had even landed in Istanbul last week, but his new number is a far less common sight on the backs of footballers.
With the iconic No. 10 worn by the 32-year-old at Real Madrid and Arsenal already taken at Fenerbahce by striker Mbwana Samatta, Ozil raised the yellow-and-blue striped jersey of the club to reveal No. 67 on the back.
The number is clearly one that Ozil wanted, as he cryptically tweeted it along with a heart emoji earlier this month on the day he travelled to the Turkish city to complete his signing.
— Mesut Özil (@MesutOzil1088) January 17, 2021
Ozil’s camp has confirmed to ESPN that the unconventional choice is a nod to his Turkish heritage, specifically his family’s hometown.
The town of Zonguldak, located on the coast of the Black Sea in northern Turkey roughly midway between Istanbul and capital city Ankara, has the post code 67000. As fitting five digits onto the back of a jersey is not really practical, Ozil has chosen the shortened version.
Not many players have made the No.67 shirt their own over the years, but Ozil will no doubt be delighted to that he can now play again following his 10 months on the sidelines at Arsenal while also paying tribute to his family at the same time.
ESPN senior football writer James Olley contributed to this report