Just as all hope looked lost, Ilkay Gundogan stepped up and proved why he became Pep Guardiola’s first Manchester City signing in five crazy minutes.
If someone pulled together a compilation of the German’s goals while in England, 80 per cent of them would include him ghosting in, unmarked to the back post for a simple tap in. But it’s not that simple, Gundogan has a sense of sniffing a goalscoring opportunity unlike anyone in world football-the phrase ‘right place, right time’ could literally be his catchphrase.
He scored his heroic brace last Sunday from a combined seven yards out, but they seven yards won City a fourth Premier League title in five seasons and engrained Gundogan into club folklore.
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Headlines in the week prior were dominated by his reported exit from the club this summer. After a flurry of stories, Gundogan’s newlywed wife posted on Instagram that they had not flown to Barcelona, but instead to Denmark to hold a private marriage ceremony.
On Instagram, before changing the caption hours later, Sara Benamira wrote: “We are married. We are really happy… we wanted to keep it private but unfortunately after this fake news about my husband I felt forced to say the truth.”
The 31-year-old has just one year left on his current City contract and joins a host of other players that have deals expiring in the summer of 2023. There has been no talk of an extension, but Gundogan further rubbished claims of his Etihad Stadium departure during the Premier League champions parade on Monday.
Speaking on City’s YouTube livestream, the midfielder said: “I’m very settled. I’ve been here six years and I think the appreciation from the club is also big because I wouldn’t be here for six years if they didn’t appreciate me – I’m very grateful to play in such a great team.
“So, I have one more year (at Man City), I’m looking forward to that year, I feel like there’s a lot to achieve next year, a lot of things that are waiting for us and I’m just enjoying my time here.”
Certainly not the words of a man thinking of a fresh challenge just yet, but his admission will hand City a huge boost in the transfer market. After the departure of club captain Fernandinho, the Blues are already on the lookout for his replacement and have been linked with Leeds United’s Kalvin Phillips in recent days.
However, if Gundogan was another to walk out the exit door, City would have to again look to the market to bolster their squad. In the eight position, Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva have been the regular starters this season, but calling the German an able deputy may be doing a disservice to his incredible quality.
Keeping hold of the midfielder will allow the club to prioritize other pressing areas in the summer and add to what is already a star-studded squad. Not only that, Gundogan – as proven last Sunday – is a difference-maker at the highest level, so retaining his services will be a huge boost for Guardiola next season.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.