Mr Gündoğan apologised, claiming he had been ignorant of the potential ramifications, and was forgiven by the German public.
But Mr Özil was defiant. Enraged at the German Football Association (DFB)’s clumsy handling of the affair, he chose to quit the national team and said he had been a victim of racism.
“I have two hearts, one German and one Turkish,” he said. It may have been politically naive of him to pose alongside Mr Erdogan at a lowpoint in Turkish-German relations, but his words struck a chord with many in Germany.
Other members of the country’s 4 million-strong Turkish community began to come forward with their own stories of discrimination.
For some in Germany, Mr Özil is a traitor. For others, a victim. A more nuanced view is perhaps that while his experience of racism is undoubtedly real, by openly supporting Mr Erdogan, he made a political choice that goes beyond his heritage.
But it is also true that the reaction of some — though not all — of his German critics has been coloured by prejudice and mistrust of minorities.
Mr Özil doesn’t wear a Germany shirt any more, but he still divides the country.