Germany coach Joachim Loew says he has not spoken to Mesut Ozil since the player quit the national team after citing "racism and disrespect" over his Turkish roots.
The Arsenal midfielder retired from international football last month after being heavily criticized for posing for a photo with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Germany teammate Ilkay Gundogan, who plays for Manchester City, ahead of the tournament.
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Recep Tayyip Erdogan
In a statement posted on social media in July, Ozil said that a section of the German media had "repeatedly" blamed his dual heritage and "a simple picture" -- posing with Erdogan -- "for a bad World Cup on behalf of an entire squad."
But speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Loew said Ozil's claims of racism were "exaggerated," insisting the row surrounding the 29-year-old midfielder was not to blame for the team's failure at Russia 2018 where they failed to reach the knockout stages of the tournament.
"My only intention was to prepare best for the World Cup," Loew said. "This issue also cost us energy because it was always there. It is of course no excuse for our performance. That was not the reason.
"Nowhere within my team during my time here, there has been not even as hint of racism," Loew said. "I underestimated the case."
Loew added that he had failed in his attempts to speak with Ozil and had been notified by the player's decision by his agent.
"The player has not called me. In the past that was the case when players retired," he added.
"Mesut decided on a different path. I repeatedly tried reaching him via message or phone but that was not possible. I have to accept that."
'Immigrant when we lose'
Ozil has yet to publicly respond to Loew's comments and the Arsenal player's agent was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNN.
But in a statement released on Twitter and Instagram last month, Ozil, who won 92 caps for Germany, said the criticism he had received for posing with Erdogan had made him feel less than wholly accepted in the national squad.
Ozil said that the meeting with the Turkish president was apolitical, that they had talked about football, and that he would be "disrespecting his ancestors' roots" if he had refused to meet Erdogan while he was in London. Erdogan reportedly used the images of him meeting the footballers in his reelection campaign.
He also criticized DFB president Reinhard Grindel who had been outspoken against Ozil's decision to have the photo taken.
At the time, Grindel commented that the sport and his national association "defend values which are not sufficiently respected by Mr Erdogan," according to the DFB website.
But for Ozil, "in the eyes of ... Grindel and his supporters, I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose."
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