The 60-year-old Brazilian described the Gunners’ new record signing as ‘the brain’ of the German national team and asserted his belief that the 25-year-old attacking midfielder can and should challenge the likes of Lionel Messi and former Real Madrid teammate Cristiano Ronaldo for the prestigious FIFA Ballon d’Or award.
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi has won the award – considered the pinnacle of individual football achievement – for the last four years consecutively with Ronaldo coming second for the last two years after wining it in 2008 at Manchester United, and Andres Iniesta coming third twice and second in 2010.
The shortlist for the prize has included Xavi, Radamel Falcao, Iker Casillas, Andrea Pirlo, Didier Drogba, Robin van Persie, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Xabi Alonso, Yaya Toure, Neymar, Wayne Rooney, Gianluigi Buffon, Sergio Aguero, Sergio Ramos, Manuel Neuer, Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique, Karim Benzema and Mario Balotelli.
In total, in 2012, no less than 12 out of 23 of the shortlisted players came from La Liga teams, with five of Spanish nationality. Only Neuer and Ozil represented Germany in the running, and Rooney was the only Englishman.
"Ozil is a great player. He's the brain of the German national team," Zico said.
"I already get excited just by seeing him play. He has the ability to read the game and play a killer pass."
"Germany have not had a playmaker like him since Wolfgang Overath in the 1970s. It would only be right if he were among the candidates to win the Ballon d'Or," he added.
Could Ozil win the Ballon d’Or at Arsenal? He was ranked 7th in the world in 2011, 13th in 2010, and 14th in 2012. Interestingly, the last England based player (and Englishman) to win the top award was Michael Owen with Liverpool in 2001. Two years later in 2003 Arsenal legend Thierry Henry came second, in 2005 Chelsea’s Frank Lampard and Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard came second and third respectively and in 2006 Henry came third but no Arsenal player have ever won the Ballon d’Or (running since 1956). Yet.
Thierry Henry was at his peak, at Arsenal, undoubtedly the best player in the Premier League but he never won the top prize. Ozil certainly has the potential to be the best player in the Premier League but I wonder whether he has the capacity to out-perform players like Messi and Ronaldo – I do believe Andres Iniesta has probably now missed his chance to win it.
Ozil will likely compete with many of the same stars he has for the last three years so far to win it, as well as probably world record breaking Real Madrid signing Gareth Bale, perhaps Isco and Luis Suarez too but I think that for the next decade where Messi and Ronaldo tail off Bale and Neymar will likely take over.
The last German national to win the Ballon d’Or was Matthias Sammer in 1996 and before him Lothar Matthaus in 1990 and the legendary Karl-Heinz Rummenigge in 1980 and 1981. There have been five German Ballon d’Or winners in 56 years – the German have won more times than any other nation (7 in total) with more individual players than any other.