Mesut Ozil recently lavished praised on former Arsenal wonderkid, Chris Willock.
Ozil has wished Willock luck ahead of Arsenal’s clash with Benfica on Saturday at the Emirates Cup (kick-off 4:20pm).
The 19-year-old signed for the Portuguese club in June after refusing a new deal with the Gunners.
“He trained with us now and then, and was a very good player, very hungry,” Ozil told Arsenal Player. “I wish him all the best there.
“For him it’s an opportunity to show his former club what he can do. Like I said, I trained with him a few times and he’s a good footballer.”
Willock’s bold move to Benfica could be the beginning of a new trend which sees younger players next the big step of signing for a foreign club in order to get playing time.
The forward, whose younger brother Joe traveled with Arsenal for their pre-season tour in Australia and China, made 60 appearances for the Gunners’ youth teams over three seasons, scoring 12 and assisting 13.
He was tipped for big things but after weighing up his options, the teenager obviously saw moving to Benfica as the best way to kick-start his career, which you have to admire.
As a former wonderkid himself, Ozil knows all too well the pressure on young players’ shoulders to fulfill their potential. Sometimes, players have to take risks, which is precisely what Willock has done.
Back in 2008, Ozil turned down the chance to sign a new deal with boyhood club, Schalke, which would have allegedly seen him earning €1.5m-a-year. It wasn’t enough, the German fell out with management, and moved to Werder Bremen.
Two years later he was signing for Real Madrid, well on his way to becoming the world’s best #10.
If he hadn’t turned down that new deal with Schalke and had instead settled for a contract he wasn’t happy with because he was too scared to take the leap to Werder, he might not be where he is today.