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Mesut Ozil talks Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bellingham, Rudiger, Guler, La Liga title

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Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images

Real Madrid head into El Clasico coming off a splendid win over Manchester City in the semifinal of the UEFA Champions League. The game may not have been pretty, but it was a Real Madrid win through and through.

Barcelona, meanwhile, enter the game off a crushing defeat to PSG. Advantage, Real Madrid.

The buildup to El Clasico, as always, is busting across the Spanish media, and MARCA interviewed Real Madrid legend Mesut Özil as part of the same.

As a player who starred in several Clasicos and engraved his name in Real Madrid’s history, he was an apt candidate to give his two cents on the upcoming clash.

The former Real Madrid star revealed in the interaction that he still followed the team’s games regularly before diving into a deep conversation about Los Blancos’ season, form and upcoming Clasico.

“An intermediate thing. I’m still watching the games, especially those of Real Madrid, Arsenal and Fenerbahçe,” he began when asked if he still watched the Galacticos’ games.

True to his word, he admitted that he watched the team’s recent clash against Manchester City which sent them into the semifinal of the UEFA Champions League.

“Yes, it was a fantastic fight. City showed why no one wants to play against them. They dominated the game most of the time, but not entirely.”

“Real Madrid were very smart, as always. They defended very well. I think that now Real Madrid is the big favourite. I trust that they can win the Champions League,” he added.

The German legend then looked back on El Clasico and spoke on the memories he had from playing Barcelona back in his day.

“At that time it was the most important match in the world of soccer. Unfortunately for us, Barça was perhaps the best Barça in history. Pep’s Barça was on another level, certainly different from the current Barça.”

Real Madrid face Barcelona on Sunday. (Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images)

“I think that right now worldwide the attention is more focused on matches such as Liverpool-Manchester City or other Premier League duels. Here I think El Clasico has gone down and it’s a shame,” he added on the famous tie.

“But that’s not Real Madrid’s fault, since it is undoubtedly one of the best teams in the world. The problem is Barça, which has lost potential,” he clarified.

Staying on the topic of El Clasico, it was impossible that Özil not be questioned on his unforgettable long-range strike against Barcelona that hit the woodwork in the Copa del Rey.

“If you search on Google for “the best of Özil” sooner or later you always find that shot [laughs]. I was always motivated against Barça, at 200%. I remember that at that time the media went crazy with those games. It was something else.”

When asked if the rivalry between Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho was one of the most terrifying rivalries in history, he said,

“I would say yes. Even today, many fans miss that time, the pinnacle of football.”

Özil went on to proclaim Real Madrid as clear favourite for the weekend’s Clasico and reasoned out his claim with sufficient backing.

“Barcelona is struggling, it’s trying. They have good players in all positions, but they have had too many injuries this season and maybe they should pay a little more attention to themselves and their mistakes and not always complain about the referees.”

“This doesn’t help. Madrid is having a fantastic season. I didn’t expect it after Karim left the club, but they are doing very well,” he added on Real Madrid.

He then added that should Los Blancos win on the night, the league title would practically be sealed in their name.

“I think so. Madrid doesn’t lose two games in a row. They are very strong.”

Commenting on the Nuevo Santiago Bernabeu, the club legend revealed that he hoped to visit the stadium in the near future.

“I want to visit the new Bernabéu in the future, I would love to, that’s the truth. For a moment I thought I could go to Sunday’s game, but in the end, things came up. But of course, he wants to go back to the Bernabéu.”

The German legend then began speaking on various individuals who have defined Real Madrid’s season, beginning with Jude Bellingham, saying,

“His first half of the season was incredible and left everyone speechless. The last few weeks he seemed a little tired.”

“If he wins La Liga, the Champions League and the European Championship, he could be a candidate for the Ballon d’Or. He’s still very young, he’s incredible,” he added.

Ozil believes Bellingham can win the Ballon d’Or. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

He was then asked which other Galactico impressed him this season, to which he picked the club’s German wall in defence.

“Antonio Rüdiger. He’s playing a world-class season. Which defender has played a better season in Europe than him? And it was also the difference in the matches against Manchester City.”

“He didn’t play the second leg last season from the beginning and they lost 0-4. In this week’s game at Etihad, Haaland was always looking for Nacho so as not to enter into any duel with Toni! His mentality is incredible,” he added.

Moving to Arda Guler, a player he knows well personally from his time in Turkey, Özil backed the youngster to come good at Real Madrid.

“I know him very well. He was like my little brother when we both played at Fenerbahçe. Everyone knows his talent, that’s why I don’t want to praise him too much and put more pressure on him.”

“His situation is not very easy to manage, especially when all the hope of a country as fascinating for soccer as Turkey is placed on him,” he added on the protege.

He then insisted that Guler’s time at Real Madrid would come and that it was just a matter of time.

“Have patience. I’m sure his time will come. He is still very young. He can learn a lot in each workout. And it has world-class players in front of it. Patience.”

Finally, he was asked if Guler had what it took to script an era in Madrid, to which he replied,

“Yes. Maybe not this season or next, but there’s time. And if it doesn’t work, you can still look at cases like Ödegaard’s, who made his way.”

“Everyone criticized him when he didn’t play as a young man, but a few years later he has become the leader of another great European club such as Arsenal,” he concluded.

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Real Madrid News

Toni Kroos opens up on retirement decision – ‘I am sad at the moment’

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Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Real Madrid have the opportunity to make this a historic season by lifting their 15th UEFA Champions League title.

But even in the event Madrid gets their hands on the trophy, the conclusion of the season will leave a bittersweet feeling as Toni Kroos is set to depart the club.

The German midfielder was urged to continue plying his trade in the Spanish Capital for another season since his timeless quality is yet to fade away, but Kroos remained firm on his decision.

Kroos opens up about retirement

Now, reflecting on his imminent departure from the club he has played 464 games with, Kroos has opened up about how the decision came about and his thought process.

“I am sad at the moment. Something that defined me, that gave so much fun and gave me so many positive memories is coming to an end,” Kroos professed on his podcast.

Kroos plays his final home game for Real Madrid tomorrow. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)

However, he claims there is a slight silver lining about the news becoming public, as there is no more pressure on him to constantly answer questions about his future and focus solely on finishing his career in the best way possible.

“I am happy that the news is out. It is a relief because a lot of people were speculating and I didn’t feel like answering questions about my future all the time,” Kroos claimed.

The veteran midfielder adds that retiring was never a clear-cut decision as his emotions fluctuated frequently.

“Retiring was never a 100-0 decision. The feelings swing in other directions, in the days at the end it was maybe a 80-20 or 70-30 decision. And that 30% is what makes you feel something,” he said.

Furthermore, Kroos reveals that he shared the news of his retirement to Ancelotti first and foremost, then relayed his decision to his teammates.

“I told Carlo [Ancelotti] first that I’m retiring. Then the club, then Luka [Modric], Fede [Valverde], Lucas [Vazquez]…” he exclaimed.

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