One of Barcelona’s early acquisitions in the summer transfer window was Ilkay Gundogan, who arrived on a free transfer but, after his terrific campaign with Manchester City, was worth his weight in gold.
The Catalan giants worked hard to secure his signature, with Manchester City also persuading him habitually to renew.
In the end, Gundogan chose Barcelona, and speaking to BILD, he shares how the saga went down, among other things related to the world of football.
Contract situation with Man City
When asked if he would have extended his contract with City if the club had offered him more than a year, he replied:
“I’m honest. And many people don’t know this: In the end, it wasn’t about a year or two. There was no problem with time. City waited a relatively long time until the talks really intensified.
“If it had happened a little earlier, the situation wculd have been different. So in the end it was the perfect ending, it couldn’t have come at a better time.”
Perhaps an early approach would have entailed a vastly different script, but Gundogan makes it clear that representing the Blaugrana was a dream, and when Barcelona came knocking, it was hard to turn down the offer.
“It was also my childhood dream to play for FC Barcelona,” he added.
The German midfielder was asked about when City’s offer arrived, to which he answered:
“I don’t want to go into the minute details, but it was quite late in the season. And when it comes to a Champions League quarter-final or semi-final, players want to concentrate purely on sport. I didn’t know what would happen next.
“Pep’s appreciation was always there, but officially there was no movement from the club for a long time. Until May, there was little reason for me to want to change. The treble was of course a crowning achievement. But that couldn’t have been planned.”
Bidding Guardiola farewell
Gundogan enjoyed an incredible spell under former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola and acknowledged that it was an emotional moment for him to bid his mentor goodbye.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t say goodbye in person because I only made the decision after the Champions League final. That was probably the hardest phone call I’ve ever had in my life,” he said.
“The conversation was emotional, but Pep was also happy for me. I switched to the club that is close to his heart and as a fan he was very happy about that. He also told me: If I need anything, I should contact him at any time.”
“It was brilliant to experience Pep as a coach. This will help me a lot over the next few years,” he exclaimed.
Expectations with Barcelona
Having joined Barcelona, Gundogan admitted that the team is a work in progress, but the Catalans are headed in the right direction with the right blend of youth and experience.
The former Manchester City captain was asked if he could reach the level he achieved at Manchester City with Barcelona in the next few years, to which he replied realistically:
“There have been maybe two or three teams like City last year – at least since I’ve been following football. Barcelona around 2011, among others.
“On the other hand, if I hadn’t seen the potential, I wouldn’t have made the move to Barcelona. We have incredible talent in the team, plus experience and quality with Robert Lewandowski, Frenkie de Jong, Marc-André ter Stegen or me.”
Touching on the balance of youth and experience, Gundogan highlighted the young talent at Barcelona such as Lamine Yamal, saying:
The talent here is unbelievable, just the fact that we have Lamine Yamal, a player who has only just turned 16. But some things in football can only be learned through experience. That takes time: keeping calm, showing patience. You have to experience that, learn it.
“I am convinced that Xavi Hernández is addressing the right things. With us experienced players, there can be a good mix. I believe that we can reach a similar level to City in the next few years.”
When invited to express his thoughts on the Barcelona youngsters such as Yamal and German prodigy Noah Darvich, who joined this summer, Gundogan spoke with optimism, saying:
“The boys from the academy, from La Masia, come regularly to train with us. It’s a huge incentive for the young players. That’s what FC Barcelona has always been about – the stars from abroad and the top talents from our own youth setup.
“I am very curious to see how Noah Darvich will present himself. I’m looking forward to getting to know him.”
Finally, the 32-year-old vocalized his views on Xavi, who played a pivotal role in his signing, claiming:
“We spoke on the phone several times before the transfer. I had a good feeling right away. I think we are very similar in character.
“Even as a player, he had some facets in his game that are also present in mine. That could be one reason why he values me. Xavi was an extremely intelligent player who saw the value of simple but thoughtful play.”