Manchester United is preparing to take advantage of Mesut Ozil’s expiring contract at Arsenal by making a move to sign the player for free next summer, according to The Independent.

The German playmaker will be free to negotiate an end-of-season move away from Emirates Stadium in January, and United is said to be readying an offer to convince him to make Old Trafford his next destination.

Ozil is a player who splits opinion, however, and the Red Devils’ fan base seems to be divided over whether the 2014 World Cup winner should be a Manchester United transfer target when they already have solid options in Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Juan Mata in the Arsenal man’s position.

So our friends at Football Whispers have taken a look at whether Ozil would represent an upgrade on Mkhitaryan and Mata for United.

In his four seasons with Arsenal, Ozil has unquestionably elevated Arsene Wenger’s men at times. His creativity and technical mastery is second to none and he is capable of opening up the most stubborn defenses with his vision and execution.

But his time in North London has also been seen as somewhat of a disappointment. Signed from Real Madrid for a then-club-record fee of £42.5 million ($55.8 million) — a figure only topped this summer by the Gunners’ £46.5 million ($61.1 million) acquisition of Alexandre Lacazette — hopes were high that the former Schalke and Werder Bremen star would be able help end Arsenal’s title drought, which had stretched nine years at the time.

And while there have been plenty of moments of inspiration and spells of extraordinary form and productivity, Ozil too often cuts a disinterested figure and can be found wanting when his team needs him most.

At Madrid, Ozil was a thrillingly dynamic creative force, either centrally as a No.10 in 4-2-3-1 or wide on the right in 4-3-3, cutting inside onto his stronger left foot. He returned 27 goals and an incredible 87 assists in three years at the Bernabeu. There have been glimpses of similar form in the Premier League, but he has never sustained it.

Mkhitaryan and Mata both would characterize themselves as No. 10s, as would Ozil, yet Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has found a way of fitting both into his team at Old Trafford, with the Armenian central and the former Chelsea man offering balance and control from the right. Their averages of 2.47 and 2.35 key passes per 90 minutes so far this season are evidence of their fine creative powers, while they have combined for six assists and three goals.

Ozil is yet to register an assist or a goal this term. But, despite a feeling that he’s not in great form, he’s producing 3.7 key passes per 90 — the most of all Premier League players with more than 300 minutes under their belt in 2017/18. This shows that, even when he appears to be below his best, he is still a wonderfully effective creator of chances, and only Arsenal’s poor finishing — they rank ninth in the division for conversion rate, whereas United ranks first — is preventing him from claiming assists.

The 28-year-old German, when in peak form, is a far more devastating presence than either Mkhitaryan or Mata. If Mourinho is confident of restoring the Arsenal man to his La Liga best, United would have a genuinely world-class player on their hands … and for no transfer fee.

And who was Ozil’s manager during his three seasons at Real Madrid? One Jose Mourinho.

Thumbnail photo via YouTube/NBC Sports