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Ozil: Why I refused to take a lockdown cut to my wages

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Arsenal's Mesut Ozil. Photo: PA

Arsenal's Mesut Ozil. Photo: PA

PA

Arsenal's Mesut Ozil. Photo: PA

Mesut Ozil has said he refused to take a pay cut during lockdown because Arsenal did not provide him with enough information about where the savings would be going, as he insisted that he had no intention of leaving this summer.

Ozil said the Arsenal players were rushed into taking a pay cut during lockdown and faced "a lot of pressure" from the club, who deployed head coach Mikel Arteta to help convince the squad to take the reductions.

The 31-year-old is the club's highest-paid player, earning £350,000 (€387,000) per week, and Arsenal are hoping to offload him during this summer window after he did not play a single minute under Arteta following football's restart.

But Ozil insisted he would not be forced out and that the length of his contract, which expires in June 2021, "should be respected by everyone".

Ozil suggested that his exclusion from the first team could have been linked to his refusal to take a pay cut, although Arteta has always said his selection decisions are only taken for footballing reasons.

Ozil also claimed he was not the only player to refuse a pay cut.

In an interview with The Athletic, Ozil said he did not agree to the pay cut because the club did not provide players with "enough detail".

Arsenal have since announced that 55 staff will be made redundant because of the financial impact of the pandemic, despite many players agreeing to the cuts because they believed it would protect jobs.

"Possibly the decision affected my chances on the pitch, I don't know," said Ozil. "But I am not afraid to stand up for what I feel is right - and when you see what has happened now with the jobs, maybe I was."

Arsenal said they faced longer-lasting reductions in their revenues than had been expected. Their bloated wage bill is one of the biggest drains on resources and Ozil's enormous wages have made it difficult for the club to find anyone willing to sign him before the end of his contract. Their best hope of offloading the playmaker may be a loan deal in which they still pay a significant part of his wages.

"I will decide when I go, not other people. I didn't sign for two or three years, I signed for four and that should be respected by everyone."

The Ozil saga continues to be a source of frustration for Arsenal, who want to invest in their squad. They are due to announce the signing of Willian on a three-year deal this weekend after the Brazilian completed his medical this week.

Willian is understood to have been requested by Arteta, who sees the winger as an ideal recruit, given his experience, profile and the terms of the deal. Arsenal have also expressed an interest in Roma midfielder Amadou Diawara.

The 23-year-old is one of the options being considered by Arsenal, who have been desperate to strengthen their midfield since Arteta was appointed in December.

Talks remain at a very early stage, with sources in Italy saying Roma are reluctant to sell the Guinea midfielder this summer.

Lucas Torreira is open to returning to Italy, though, and could be offered as part of a swap deal.

Lille defender Gabriel Magalhaes is also on Arsenal's radar, although they face strong competition.

Their top target remains Atletico Madrid midfielder Thomas Partey, whose £45m (€50m) release clause is a major obstacle. Arsenal are expected to confirm in the coming days that captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has signed a lucrative new deal.

© Daily Telegraph, London

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