Mesut Ozil says growing up playing on the stony surface of his local Gelsenkirchen monkey cage paved the way for him to reach the top.

Read much more from Mesut in April's Arsenal Magazine - he's the main feature interview

Mesut Ozil adorns the front cover of April's Arsenal Magazine
Mesut Ozil adorns the front cover of April's Arsenal Magazine

The Arsenal playmaker was a self-confessed "football freak" as a youngster, often spending up to 10 hours a day on the pitch with his older brother and friends.

When indoors, Ozil would hone his technique in a variety of more unconventional ways.

"When I was younger, if I saw something lying around, I would try to juggle with it," he told the Arsenal Magazine. "I would always go on vacation with my friends and we would always play games like two touch using a tennis ball, or play with a basketball, which is heavier than a normal ball.

Juggling with tennis balls is good but I think what helped my technique was the pitch I grew up on in Gelsenkirchen

"[I didn't just play] with chewing gum or tennis balls, sometimes with basketballs or medicine balls too - even ones that are 5kg, though that is very difficult. Sometimes on the pitch if the game has finished and I see some tape on the floor, I'll take it and play with that too.

"What helped me before was playing against older people. I would play against my brother and his friends and they were always five or six years older than me.

"When I was 11, they were already 17 or 18. It was tough to play against them and the pitch I grew up playing on wasn't that nice, it always had stones on it.

"You had to be really concentrated when you got the ball. I think that kind of stuff helped me more.

"Juggling with tennis balls is good but I think what helped my technique was the pitch I grew up on in Gelsenkirchen."

Mesut Ozil
Mesut Ozil

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Nik Brumsack 22 Mar 2016