Ilkay Gundogan, the talented midfielder who arrived at Manchester City from Borussia Dortmund in 2016 for £20M, has left an indelible mark on the club. Under the guidance of Klopp and Tuchel, he caught the attention of Pep Guardiola and became the first signing of Man City’s Pep-Era. Over the course of seven successful years, Gündoğan made 304 appearances, won 14 major trophies, and solidified his legendary status in the blue shirt. His farewell came at the peak of his career, as he decided to part ways with Manchester City after achieving unparalleled success. From his arrival on crutches to his departure with a treble, Gündoğan proved to be a true captain and a symbol of triumph for Manchester City.
He is on his way to enjoy the rest of his career in the Mediterranean city of Barcelona! Helped Pep achieve everything in England, now it is time do the same for his disciple. He will be signing for FC Barcelona on a free transfer after his contract with Manchester City ended. He decided not to renew and go for a new challenge in Catalonia. Everybody is hyping his arrival in the Catalan club, the much significance he holds for the project Xavi is building.
Why Ilkay Gundogan though?
Well, let us try reversing this question. “Why not him?” and what answers are we left with? NONE, absolutely none. Any team, big or small, relegation battlers or table-toppers, he would only do good for them. In this situation, he was a no-brainer for Barca. The club is in terrible financial conditions. There are salary cap issues, new wages cannot be added to the current wage cap, and the dead weights are not moving at all. The 1:1 rule is far from being achievable. In such conditions, if a masterclass of a player who has played under Pep, knows the very idea around which Barca’s football revolves and is available for FREE. Why will you not have him!!
Barca had him on their list a very long ago. After agreeing on personal terms with the midfielder, Gündoğan has signed a two-year deal with an option for a further year. Manchester City provided him with a similar deal but with only a year less of surety. Nevertheless, he has joined Barca and the joy of the Culers know no bounds. The interesting thing to notice, the release clause set by the club is a sum of a massive €400 million. Given the financial state of the club, it only seems fair.
When in Dortmund, Klopp used to play Gündoğan in a number 6 role. This laid the foundations for his good on-the-ball technique. But in Manchester City, he had a more advanced role as a number 8 or interior. Pep has even used him as a single pivot at times. So, he is a proper midfield player who can adjust to any given role, from pivot to an attacking mid.
Although in Barca, where Xavi uses a box midfield, he can be deployed as an interior. Xavi must be seeing him that way. It is the same position where he used to play in City. He is also a very stylistic fit to play as a single pivot. But it will be purely due to rotation purposes or if any player who plays as DM is unavailable. He is seen as the main man to lead the way from the middle. A perfect replacement for Busquets in terms of leadership and experience. Gündoğan also makes up for the lack of depth in the midfield. Barca suffered heavily in Europa League against Manchester United when they had Pedri out for both legs and Gavi for the second leg. The lack of depth was exposed, leading them to a close defeat at the hands of Ten Haag men.
Gündoğan’s arrival is still not the solution for everything, but a very good addition to the arsenal. Barca is yet to find a replacement for Busquets. Xavi is unwilling to settle for just any player, he wants his DM to be a perfect one, both technically and a stylistic fit.
Barcelona seems to be going in the right direction. Ilkay Gündoğan’s signing is a statement. Amidst the 30+ years of players being lured in by the Saudi bag, Gündoğan decided to stay in Europe and try a new challenge. He has found a good destination and the project is fit for him to excel in the tail-end years of his career. Win-Win situation for both ends of this 10/10 transfer.