Ilkay Gündogan (Gelsenkirchen, Germany; 32 years old) did not want to know anything about the last Champions League final. After ending up fleeced at the Bernabéu discount, he already announced in advance that he would look for another life plan while Madrid and Liverpool settled their affairs in Paris. “Only time can cure it”, he laconicly settled a year ago, a prisoner of frustration. The waiting time, his and that of Manchester City, can be shortened more than he imagined, although again the pending task goes through the white team.
The trance catches this German of Turkish origin (his parents emigrated from Izmir to Dortmund in the eighties) at a borderline moment in his career, on the hunt for the last great contract of his career. His connection with the citizen It expires in two months, Barcelona wants it -among others- and Guardiola still hasn’t considered it lost in public. Meanwhile, this midfielder with a shy and introverted character, raised on the fundamentals of combinative football, has decided to show off his chest with great goals. It has recently been revealed to be so decisive that, as his teammate Kyle Walker revealed on Tuesday, in the locker room they joke that “in recent months [de competición] he becomes Zidane”.
The final appointment against Carlo Ancelotti’s boys at the Etihad comes with the still latent impact of his last exhibition in the Premier, last Sunday against Everton (0-3). After a rather swampy half hour for City, the German was rained down by a ball in the middle of the jungle toffee and he solved it with a wonderful kick with his back to the goal. Nothing was known about Haaland and he connected it very shortly after with a great cross to make it 0-2. And around the break, he subtly closed the master session in a free kick. A week earlier, against Leeds, he had also scored both goals, although the excessive greed (and generosity of the Norwegian) to take (and miss) a penalty that was not his turn twisted the nose of the interventionist Pep. “You have to throw it away,” he yelled at his new panzer.
His four goals and two assists in the last week underline the scoring nature of a Gündogan who made association play his mark of distinction and who is part of Haaland’s supply battery. “He said that he could play nine, people laughed,” claimed the Catalan coach two years ago, when the German began to sharpen himself in the rival area. In his first four campaigns, he stayed at 22 goals (a crusader tear also stopped him dry for nine months), while in the last three he registered 36. Last year, in the final day, he had to be the one who brought out his mud kit. He appeared 0-2 against Aston Villa with half an hour to go and scored a double to come back and win the Premier.
Put into perspective, the figures of his signing seven seasons ago (27 million euros) are almost countercultural for this City, which in the same period has had a net cost of signing up 665 million (discounting sales). It is only the 35th most expensive signing in the club’s history; since signing him, there have been 20 more expensive ones. It was the first to be announced in 2016 under the Guardiola era and now it is time to review his case.
Very close to Rüdiger
He has already recognized that he grew up under the ideological influence of the Busquets, Xavi and Iniesta trio, and Barcelona has him in their notebook as an outstanding reinforcement for the growth of their squad. At the Camp Nou there are not enough quality in a machine room that is highly dependent on Pedri, and the German offers them precisely that and a letter of freedom that would soften the overall amount of the operation. In any case, it is not the only club that has asked about him. In the Premier, the legal term for the teams to open negotiations with a player whose contract ends will begin shortly (in Spain it started in January). “No one knows what will happen, maybe he will stay. Hopefully. He is a guy who handles pressure well, really well, ”Guardiola said a few days ago.
This Wednesday, as he advances positions in the field towards the Real Madrid area, he will meet his compatriot and friend Antonio Rüdiger, united despite their almost opposite characters. Or, perhaps, precisely because of that. The defender, Haaland’s windy marking in the first leg, is loquacious and with a mocking touch, while the midfielder takes refuge in discretion. “He doesn’t talk much, but when he does, everyone listens,” Guardiola said of him this Sunday, who did not give him rest in the last two league games despite already exceeding thirty.
City’s last training session was delayed for almost an hour in a Manchester that started strangely with sun and, little by little, it was recovering its usual intemperate time. There, in a field next to the Etihad, Gundo started the afternoon out of place, playing under the sticks and exchanging long balls with his coach. Against Madrid he will be needed for something else if he wants to close the past and lift his first Champions League.
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