Southeast Asia Indonesia

Ozil to Switch Fenerbahce for…RANS Cilegon?

Having won promotion into the Liga 1 Indonesia as 2021 Liga 2 Indonesia runners-up, RANS Cilegon FC are not pulling any punches in their preparation for the 2022/23 season. Actor Raffi Ahmad, the owner of the super-wealthy club, has stated that he has intentions to entice former Arsenal star Mesut Ozil away from current club Fenerbahce to his pet project in RANS Cilegon, which would hopefully help the club win the Liga 1 in their very first season there.

When it comes to loosening the purse strings for the sake of RANS Cilegon, Raffi is definitely not holding himself back. The likes of Hamka Hamzah, Saddam Hi Tenang, and Alfin Tuasalamony were brought into the club, while Rifal Lastori and Kurniawan Kartika Ajie were brought in on loan from Borneo FC and Arema FC respectively. However, most importantly, Raffi managed to convince a 45-year old Cristian Gonzales to come out of his supposed retirement to play for RANS Cilegon, with the veteran striker proving that he still got it with 7 goals in the 2021 Liga 2 season.

And with promotion to Liga 1 now assured, RANS Cilegon began to prepare themselves for their first season in the top flight. An agreement was reached between the club and the government of Banten Province that would see RANS Cilegon use the currently-under construction Banten International Stadium for their Liga 1 games, an upgrade from the Krakatau Steel Stadium that the club’s predecessor, Cilegon United, used to occupy.

However, that did not hold a candle to the bombshell dropped by Raffi on Monday. According to Turkish news outlet Fotospor, Raffi is interested in bringing Ozil into Indonesian shores as one of RANS Cilegon’s four foreign players for the 2022/23 season.

“Mesut Ozil has agreed to play in the Liga 1 next season,” said Raffi, as quoted from the outlet, “We’ve agreed on the terms through WhatsApp.”

RANS Cilegon and Turkey were closely connected to each other, as the club had conducted a training camp on Turkish soil in the build-up towards the 2021 Liga 2 season. There RANS Cilegon played Turkish third division side 1922 Konyaspor and Fenerbahce’s U-19 team in a series of friendly matches – it was possible that Ozil had met up with Raffi during the friendly with the latter.

Rumors linking Ozil to RANS Cilegon became stronger once one remembers an interview that Raffi gave to Tribunnews about a week ago, where the actor told the news outlet that a “world-class legendary player” will play for RANS Cilegon in their debut Liga 1 season.

Is Ozil that “world-class legendary player?”

For now, Raffi remained coy about the former Arsenal and Real Madrid maestro’s arrival at his club. He even scoffed at the idea of signing Ozil, citing his high transfer fee and wages as the reason behind his reluctance of working out a deal on him.

“He’s too expensive. My head hurts thinking about it,” said Raffi in a video posted on the Instagram account of Rudy Salim, RANS Cilegon’s co-chairman alongside Raffi.

Contracted with Fenerbahce until 2024, Ozil’s transfer fee is estimated at around Rp64 billion. To put things into perspective, the entire Persikabo 1973 squad is worth only Rp57 billion. Ozil’s high wages could also pose a problem for RANS Cilegon’s coffers.

With the potential of him becoming the most expensive Liga 1 player of all time, Ozil could generate huge amounts of hype that could rival that created by Persib Bandung’s signing of Michael Essien back in 2017. Should Raffi pull this transfer off, he could not only put RANS Cilegon in the map of Indonesian football, but also ensuring that the Liga 1 can still attract the biggest names in world football, albeit not in their prime anymore.