Carlo Ancelotti says he is not surprised Mesut Ozil is unhappy to be spending so much time on Real Madrid’s bench, but insisted dropping him for Sunday’s 3-1 La Liga win over Athletic Bilbao had nothing to do with reported interest from Manchester United and Arsenal.
Ozil was rumoured to be unsettled after being substituted early in both Madrid’s opening Primera Division games, while his father and agent was reportedly disappointed with Madrid's negative response to the suggestion of a pay-rise to bring the Germany international's annual salary closer to that of expected new team-mate Gareth Bale.
Even public comments by Ozil Jnr that he was very happy at the Bernabeu, and had no intention of leaving, did not kill speculation that a €50 million transfer to the Premier League could take place before this summer’s transfer window slams shut.
Asked by reporters at the Bernabeu after Sunday's victory, in which Ozil was an unused substitute, Ancelotti said he would expect any player to want to play every game, but there was nothing to his decision to choose Angel Di Maria for this particular game.
“It is normal that he [Ozil] is unhappy,” Ancelotti said. “I do not like players to be happy on the bench. It was a technical decision to put in Di Maria, who has a lot of rhythm and intensity, nothing more.”
With Gareth Bale’s €90 million plus move from Tottenham and Kaka’s potential return to Milan still both up in the air, Ancelotti accepted a suggestion that Monday could be a busy day in the Bernabeu’s offices.
“I do not know really what will happen tomorrow,” he said. “I cannot say today that the squad is this. It could be that anything changes, exits and arrivals.”
One player who will remain at Madrid is Fabio Coentrao, who is not moving to Spurs as part of the Bale deal, or going anywhere else, Ancelotti stated.
“Fabio Coentrao is staying,” he said. “He had said he wanted to leave, but I did not want that. Everyone -- the players, the coaches, the club, is very happy with this decision.”
Madrid won the game with two goals from Isco and a Cristiano Ronado header -- his first of the season and 202nd in 202 games for the club.
Reported Arsenal target Karim Benzema provided assists for both Isco’s goals, but was still whistled by some in the Bernabeu crowd, something Ancelotti said was unfair.
“Today something was very clear,” Ancelotti said. “Benzema was whistled a little, all the stadium applauded Di Maria. That shows the fans look a lot at the work being done. Benzema is in a different position, where you do not need to work as much. The sign today was that work is applauded.”
Ancelotti professed to be happy overall with the performance, which maintained Madrid’s 100% cent start to the new season.
“It was a good game,” he said. “We did not begin the game with much intensity, but from 20 minutes in we started to play with more rhythm. The first half was good, we played well. I believe the team is improving.”