Reports in Germany claim Borussia Dortmund will sell Ilkay Gundogan this summer after contract talks between club and player broke down – so would the midfielder suit a Premier League move?
Manchester United were keeping tabs on the Germany international before he signed a two-year extension in the summer, but that deal runs out at the end of next season.
He refused to be drawn on a possible reunion with Jurgen Klopp in December, while Arsenal have been linked by several national newspapers in England and Juventus the same in Italy.
So with a summer move a possibility again, what could we expect from Gundogan in England?
Date of Birth: 24/10/1990
Club: Borussia Dortmund
Height: 5ft 11in (180cm)
Weight: 12st 4lb (79kg)
Preferred Foot: Right
Climbing the ladder
Now one of Europe’s premier midfielders, Gundogan worked his way to the top, serving apprenticeships in VfL Bochum’s reserve team and FC Nurnberg.
In the fourth Bundesliga game of his career, a teenage Gundogan more than matched Bayern Munich’s Bastian Schweinsteiger, serving notice of his considerable potential.
And with almost 50 league appearances under his belt before his 21st birthday, Dortmund’s Klopp came calling. He initially struggled to replace Nuri Sahin, the Bundesliga Player of the season had departed for Real Madrid, and was briefly benched. “It was a tough time,” he admitted. “Things hadn’t gone as well as I had thought, and the coach was right to take me out of the team and protect me.”
But the new recruit soon won back his place, slotting in alongside Shinji Kagawa, Mario Gotze and Kevin Grosskruetz, making 28 league appearances in his first campaign.
With three goals and as many assists in that debut season, Gundogan, alongside team-mates Kagawa and Mats Hummels, was named in Kicker’sTeam of the Year.
Dortmund strolled to their fifth Bundesliga title and second in as many years, finishing eight points clear of rivals Bayern, with Gundogan the link as Klopp’s core of young German players ran riot.
Injuries put Gundogan on ice
A league and cup double capped the perfect first campaign, and Dortmund nearly followed it up with a Champions League win the following season.
Gundogan’s penalty threatened to send the Wembley final to extra time before Arjen Robben stuck late, and that disappointment was only compounded by a nightmare 2013/14.
The Germany midfielder was initially ruled out for two weeks after aggravating a back injury on international duty in August, but a spinal cord compression eventually kept him out for more than a year. It was a “huge blow” for the midfielder, and doubly cruel as Germany won the World Cup in his absence.
Back at club level, Dortmund struggled to find their fluency without Gundogan, leading Klopp to admit as much shortly before his return in late 2014: “The day he makes his comeback to action will be a great day for everyone.”
He missed more than 80 games in all, only returning to first-team football that October as Dortmund finished a disappointing seventh in Klopp’s final season in charge.
So how would he fit in?
Well and truly back to his best this season, according to WhoScoredGundogan has been one of the top 15 players in the German top flight.
Under new manager Thomas Tuchel, he’s often deployed in a slightly deeper position, a move that partly explains his single league goal so far this season. But his 2.3 successful dribbles per match still puts him on par with Premier League stars Dimitri Payet and Eden Hazard.
Taking so many chances in possession requires trust from the manager, and despite the high number of dribbles, Gundogan is only dispossessed once per match on average. Aaron Ramsey, Ross Barkley and Dele Alli give it away at least twice.
He’s never been prolific for club or country, but given the opportunity to stretch his legs Gundogan is a real threat in the opposition half.
His 87.5 per cent pass completion mark is among the best in the league, and he’s effective going the other way too. He’s averaged more than two interceptions per game, a figure comparable with Victor Wanyama and Morgan Schneiderlin.
His energetic style powered Dortmund’s thrilling counter attacks under Klopp, a trait well suited to the fast-paced Premier League, and it’s this ability to impress across key areas that stands him in good stead. A team with Gundogan very often dictates tempo and urgency, an underrated skill, but he’s no gung-ho attacker.
The temptation to pair him with Klopp is understandable, and Gundogan alongside Emre Can would be dynamic, but the Reds’ January pursuit of Alex Teixeira suggests their focus may be on an attacker this summer.
Manchester United could always revisit their interest. Louis van Gaal moved for Schweinsteiger after Gundogan committed to Dortmund last summer, but the World Cup winner has struggled with injury and Gundogan is six years his junior.
Arsenal have been mentioned in the gossip columns too, and you can argue they have the motivation and the means to make a deal. Arsene Wenger had an eye on his midfield last month when he moved for Mohamed Elneny, but the Egyptian’s arrival does not necessarily rule Arsenal out with Mathieu Flamini, Mikel Arteta and Tomas Rosicky all free agents this summer.
What he said…
“No decision has been made, and everything has to be carefully considered, because a career does not last forever,” Gundogan told Bild last month. “But to be honest, everything’s open. I know what I have at the club, and I will include that in my considerations.”
What they said…
“The importance of Ilkay is undisputed – I would like to tell you that he has extended until 2026,” said Tuchel this month. “Unfortunately that is not the case, but we are in talks. We have a good chance. The interest in Gundogan is great, which is why talks are not very easy.”
“I think he is back to where he was two years ago,” said Germany national team coach Joachim Low. “[He’s] an extremely valuable player, he’s very agile, he makes smooth runs, is quick on the turn and I’m very glad to have him as an option.”
“Gundogan is willing to learn and is very smart,” said then Dortmund manager Klopp in 2011. “He also brings a great attitude. Ilkay has a great passing game, is a complete player, and fits perfectly into our footballing system.”
Do you think Gundogan would suit the Premier League? Leave a comment