Jose Mourinho, no less, called him "the best No. 10 in the world". He has won the World Cup, the Spanish La Liga and the English FA Cup. But the diamond earrings, the tattoos, those tabloid tales of his private life and his languid style on the pitch hint that - perhaps - he is not maximising his talent.
But Mesut Oezil does not believe he has a point to prove as long as he has the trust of Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger.
The German international was calm and polite when he met The Straits Times at an Emirates football clinic at Jalan Besar Stadium yesterday afternoon.
He said through a translator: "(The criticism) has never bothered me. People who see the games from outside can only rely on what they see or find out in the media, but the trainer (Wenger) knows exactly what's going on.
"What the media writes, whether positive or negative, doesn't interest me as much. For me the most important thing is that the team have the faith of their coach."
But since signing for the Gunners for a club record £42.5 million (S$90.5 million), it has not been smooth sailing. Injuries limited him to an average of 23 league starts over two seasons.
His unhurried style of play has also drawn flak from former Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes, who blasted Oezil for "going through the motions".
And there has been speculation that he is unsettled at the club and wants out.
But Oezil shot down all these rumours, saying: "I'm very happy. I really like playing at this level as well as living in London. In the last two years, I have had the good fortune of winning several trophies with the team, including two important titles. This season we'd like to take that up another level, to work on winning more titles."
Wenger also dismissed rumours of Oezil being unhappy, saying: "I never spoke to him on that front.
"And these suggestions are created by people who want to create news but there is nothing concrete in that. He is an important player to the team, and a player we count on to continue our success."
Arsenal started last season poorly, with only four wins in their first 10 games. But Oezil attributed that slow start to post-World Cup fatigue. He explained: "Having too little time off when playing a long or particularly intense season increases your risk of injury.
"We had several injuries, at first just a couple but eventually more than one or two players at the same time. That can hold you back."
But the Gunners bounced back to finish third in the league and retained the FA Cup, with the playmaker starring in the final.
With the Community Shield clash against Chelsea just 15 days away, Oezil believes he is content.
He said: "The most important thing for me is that I know for sure that I enjoy playing football as much now as I did when I was just starting out at 16. And I miss playing football when I have a few days off or am away on holiday.
"It just makes me happy to see the ball and be able to play."
This article was first published on July 18, 2015.
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