Turkish-German footballer Mesut Özil announced his retirement at the age of 34 on Wednesday, with Turkish media reports speculating about his possible nomination to parliament from the ruling party.
“I am announcing that after much contemplation, I have quit football. It was a privilege to be a professional football player for 17 years. I feel grateful for this opportunity. However, I have suffered long-term injuries in the past weeks and months. I felt it was time to quit,” Özil announced in statement he posted on Instagram on Wednesday.
Özil joined İstanbul club Fenerbahçe in 2021 after Arsenal terminated his contract and then moved to İstanbul Başakşehir less than a year later. His transfer to Fenerbahçe created a huge buzz in Turkey at the time, with a record 312,000 people tracking his flight from London to İstanbul to complete the deal with Fenerbahçe, but he failed to meet expectations.
Özil, also a former Real Madrid player, played a key role in Germany’s winning the FIFA World Cup in Brazil in 2014.
He retired from the German national football team in 2018 amid a political debate in Germany about an influx of migrants and after backlash over a photograph of him with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at a hotel in London in May 2018, saying he faced “racism and disrespect” over his Turkish ancestry.
Özil’s friendship with Erdoğan, who was best man at his wedding in 2019, appeared to tarnish his achievements for many fans in Germany as well as Turkey.
Now, following his sudden retirement from football before the end of the season, there are claims in the Turkish media suggesting that Özil retired to be able to run in the parliamentary elections from Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Some reports said Özil will run for parliament from his hometown of Zonguldak in northern Turkey and has already launched efforts to secure support.
Turkey will hold presidential and parliamentary elections on May 14.
Özil made no mention about entering politics in his Instagram statement.