Ex team-mate: Even a teenage Ozil was brilliant and talented

When current Arsenal star Ozil was at Schalke, he had a playing style and knowledge that belied his age of 17, says a former team-mate.

Mesut Ozil's talent was obvious, even at 17-years-old when he was on the books at Schalke, according to an ex-team-mate Peter Lovenkrands, 33, of Birmingham City.

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What made the attack-minded playmaker such an extraordinary player was not only his skill-set, but also the knowledge that came with it, something Lovenkrands has heralded as 'brilliant'.

Lovenkrands reflected on his time with Ozil in the Bundesliga on Arsenal's official website: 'Mesut was 17 but he was playing like he was in his mid-twenties. His football knowledge was brilliant. I tried to tell them not to let him go.

'I’m not surprised that Mesut has become such a good player because he was so talented when he was 17. The team we had was good - we almost won the league that year. We had a fantastic team and he could fit right in with that. He was that good at 17 years old. He could play with no problem.'

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In his first full season with Schalke, Ozil helped the club's push toward the summit of Germany's premier division, finishing as runner-up. After a fall-out with the club's top brass, he eventually joined Werder Bremen in January, 2008, and was charged to fill the playmaking void eventually left by Diego.

His performances and success in the DFB-Pokal, as well as the UEFA Cup, alerted a number of European elite sides to his abilities and Real Madrid secured his signature in 2010. It was at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu and latterly at Arsenal, where he punctuated his reputation as one of the continent's hottest players.

'I think he’s grown,' Lovenkrands added. 'He’s taken everything in his stride. He’s always been that sort of player. When I knew him, he was always a fun guy who just took each day as it came. He was playing football and enjoying himself. Even when he went to Spain, he was fantastic straightaway. It’s good to see.'

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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