MIKEL ARTETA assured Arsenal’s players including Mesut Ozil they would not be thought of negatively by refusing a pay cut, according to reports.
Ozil, 31, is the Gunners’ top-earning star with a weekly wage of £350,000.
But he was one of three first-teamers to reject the 12.5 per cent 12-month pay cut and came under heavy criticism as a result.
ESPN say, though, that Arteta made it clear to players like Ozil that opinions on them would not change depending on their decision on the wages.
However, the Spaniard did remind his men of the values Arsenal stand for and the positive statement it would make if they were the first English side to agree a pay cut, rather than a deferral.
Arteta played an integral role in the discussions between the club’s hierarchy and players to agree on the wage cut.
Ozil’s reasoning for not taking the pay cut – which will see the players paid back in full should they qualify for the Champions League – was because he did not want to be rushed into a decision while it is thought he remains in discussions about taking a cut, possibly of more than 12.5 per cent.
His wages work out at £18.2million a year, which means his income would have fallen by £2.3m.
But the former Germany international’s agent Dr Erkut Sogut revealed last year that Ozil already gives away at least £2m a year through donations and charitable causes.
His acts of kindness include:
- paying for 1,000 vital operations for children across the world
- feeding 100,000 homeless people at 16 refugee camps in Turkey and Syria
- paying £240,000 to fund operations for sick kids in Brazil
- working for children’s charity Rays of Sunshine
Ozil was blasted by former footballers and the wider community alike after rejecting his side’s proposal.
England and Manchester United legend Gary Neville said: “The principle of not being together as a group is indefensible.
“I wouldn’t want to be one of the three who haven’t agreed with the rest of the group, I think it will alienate and isolate them in everything moving forward.
“They are entitled to make their own decisions, you cannot rip up a player’s contract or force them to take a deferral. But when a group of players are voting on something, you go along with it.”
His Sky Sports colleague Jamie Carragher agreed, expressing his surprise at Ozil’s snub.
He added: “I always felt this would be a problem. I’ve been there myself in a different situation when you’re trying to agree with 25 people in a dressing room. It’s never going to happen.
“I always felt there would be two strands of players not fully engaged with the rest of the squad in cuts of wages or deferrals.
“That would maybe a young lad who had just got into the squad and maybe didn’t have the revenue of other players. Or a player coming to the end of his contract and had maybe not earned big money throughout his career.
“But the fact the highest-paid player and biggest name at Arsenal has not gone with the rest of his team and stuck together.
“Even if I was in Ozil’s position and I did not agree with it, I think the rest of the team, the manager and people at the club had decided to be as one and make the decision, then you have to go with it.
“Football is a team game, it’s not an individual sport. I think Ozil in this situation has got to go with what the rest of his team are doing. It’s a massive PR own goal.”
Outspoken TV presenter and Arsenal fan Piers Morgan joined in, labelling Ozil “disgraceful” for his decision.
He added: “Shame on you Mesut Ozil. Shame on you.
“Some of the younger players, who are on far less money than you, are taking a 12.5 per cent pay cut, a minuscule drop in the ocean for you, and you don’t want to do it because you want to see how the financial situation plays out while you are sitting on your backside on your Playstation every night rather than actually playing football. Really?”