The first time 21-year-old Mesut Özil pulled on a white shirt this summer, he was a relative unknown on a German national team of which expectations were nebulous.
The next time Mesut Özil pulls on a white shirt this summer, he'll be an international superstar on a Real Madrid club of which the world is expected.
Los Blancos finished with 96 league points last year, amazingly only good enough for second position, and they were knocked out in the Champions League Round of 16, again.
2010 brings about massive hype for the Madridistas, but not without gargantuan expectations.
In just a year's time, Özil went from the Bundesliga's best-kept secret on Werder Bremen to a developed playmaker, the likes of which European powerhouses were duly impressed by in South Africa. Now Özil finds himself on one of the most famous clubs in the world in a summer where expectations could not be higher.
So how will the 21-year-old deal with the pressure?
It may sound like a broken record of a post-match interview, but it is imperative for the young Özil to focus on keeping his own form and not trying to play outside of his capabilities.
Many are spinning the transfer to make it sound like Özil is Kaka's replacement. Rumours like this appear daunting to a starlet who has had limited time in the spotlight. While Jose Mourinho might need Özil to fulfill a similar space or position on the field, Mesut needs to play like the footballer that got him signed and not exhaust himself trying to be the next Kaka, a battle he will surely lose.
While Özil is the new kid in town, his quest for greatness at Madrid does not go unshared. Young and promising attackers Angel di Maria, Pedro Leon, and Sergio Canales will also be jockeying for field time with Özil. The fellow youngsters, along with fellow German international Sami Khedira, should provide a good support system for Mesut.
He's still a developing player. It's easy to say go ahead and throw him into the fire now at Real, but Özil, like all players, needs time and an adjustment period in order to make this move work.
While a keen focus on his own game will be instrumental in making his fledgling career at Real Madrid a success, Özil should not completely ignore the history and rich tradition that he has just been welcomed into.
Embracing the new culture will be a key motivational tool to Özil taking the next step of his career. The derby games with Barca and rush of playing at the Bernabeu should be used not as intimidation, but as an added injection of adrenaline for Özil.
Thousands of eyes will be fixated on Mesut Özil as he takes the pitch for the first time in the white shirt. While his path to success is littered with land mines, a player of Özil's talent and stature should relish the opportunity of continuing his career under the bright lights of La Liga and Madrid.
His footwork, pace, skill, creativity, and vision are certainly a welcomed addition to La Liga. The expectations may weigh heavily on his young shoulders, but this should not overwhelm the future star. Despite the pressure, here's to advising Özil to make the tough pass, hold on to the ball a little longer, and not stifle his own flair for fear of failure.
He is, after all, playing at Real Madrid.
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