Man City v Dortmund: Ilkay Gundogan becomes the driving force behind the quadruple pursuit squad

Ilkay Gundogan on an open top bus tour with Dortmund in 2012

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Ilkay Gundogan, center, has become a central part of a Manchester City side chasing a quadruple this season

A remarkable element of Manchester City’s bid for an unprecedented quadruple this season is that, for the most part, it was the brilliance of the team that stood out, rather than that of a single individual.

Pep Guardiola’s side could very well win all four competitions they participate in and yet it is not certain that a member of his team will win the Player of the Year award, as Ruben Dias, Ilkay’s excellent results Gundogan and Phil Foden could do it. divide the vote.

Whatever happens between now and the end of the season, there is no doubt about the role Gundogan played in bringing City to the sight of what would be English football’s greatest achievement.

For a player rejected by the eight-year-old hometown club because he was deemed too small, his growing influence – 12 goals in 23 Premier League games – has been at the heart of the club’s rebirth after a year of 2019 -20 disappointing.

He will once again be a central figure for City in the Champions League on Tuesday as he takes on Borussia Dortmund, the team where he really made a name for himself on the European stage.

Bounce back from early rejection

This early rejection of Schalke could have derailed Gundogan’s career, but he left the disappointment behind his neighbors Bochum, where he would work for the first time under youth coach Michael Oenning.

“Deep down in his heart he’s always been Schalke and he wanted to play for Schalke, but they fired him because he wasn’t big enough and that was the reason he never came back,” a Oenning told BBC Sport.

“During the first training session [with Bochum] we tried to cross and he did them with right foot and left foot and then I asked if he could do it with backspin and he could, and that was fantastic. I told him straight away, “I think you’ll be a professional football player. He looked at me and didn’t say anything but in his eyes I could see they were really on fire. ”

Gundogan’s technical ability came naturally, but his skills were honed on the streets of Gelsenkirchen.

“Ilkay trained with passion, but it was so easy for him because his technique is so good and he can solve all his problems on the pitch with technique,” ​​Oenning adds. “He didn’t speak a lot but he played great football and everyone respected him because of his skills. “

Oenning became a mentor for Gundogan, taking the midfielder to Nuremberg when he left to become the coach of the Bundesliga team. Gundogan went on to help keep the team in the league, scoring in the relegation round against Augsburg.

Gundogan’s form for Nuremberg saw him move to Borussia Dortmund

“After six months [at Bochum], Ilkay called me and said, “I want to finish my school but I can’t do this here”. I picked him up in Nuremberg and his father told me that he also had to finish his studies. Playing in the Bundesliga and finishing your studies is not that easy, but we have found a way. He went to school and had fantastic exam results, while also starting to play Bundesliga football, so it was a good time because he was really focused on both.

“He knows where he’s from, he wasn’t born with a golden spoon in his hand, so he’s learned what it means to survive and that education is the most important thing. “

Oenning used Gundogan as a number 10 at Bochum and Nuremberg, but his immediate future lay elsewhere in midfield, falling deeper for national teams in age groups and later in Dortmund, which is why he scored in average one goal every 10 games in Germany.

Oenning continued to take charge of Hamburg and tried to take Gundogan with him, but Dortmund came calling and the midfielder couldn’t turn down the opportunity.

Find a new role under Klopp

A royalty of around 4 million euros was agreed to take Gundogan to Signal Iduna Park, where he signed a four-year contract in 2011.

Chris Lowe also signed that summer, joining a club that had won the Bundesliga the previous season under Jurgen Klopp, which meant it was not easy for the youngsters to break into the first team.

“The first six months were pretty tough for him but he kept going, training well, developing his game and in the second half of the season he played consistently week after week,” said the former Huddersfield defender. Lowe.

Naturally, there will always be a step forward when a young player joins a club the size of Dortmund, especially during one of their golden periods, and Gundogan has had to adjust to Klopp’s intensity.

“He worked out enough in the gym to get stronger,” Lowe adds. “He needed to be strong and really fit which is the main part he worked on to adjust to the style of play and be fit to play 90 minutes.

“He needs his confidence and a manager who believes in him and trusts him to give the confidence he needs because he’s always been a guy who could score and had a good shot from a distance, but now he has the confidence and confidence of the manager. .

“He was always calm and a little shy. He was a calm guy, he was just trying to achieve what he wanted by working hard. He wasn’t a nightlife guy, he was just focused on the job and trying to improve himself. ”

Gundogan was used in a deeper ‘number six’ role by Klopp and he adapted well, becoming a key part of the Bundesliga and Dortmund’s cup triumphs, with a personal turning point to come when he struck a 120th-minute German Cup semi-final winner against Greuther Furth, one of 12 goals in 140 appearances for the club.

“He comes from a small club and you have to show what you can do to gain the respect of other players and that was a turning point where he showed everyone that he was capable of doing something special and that he was a player with great qualities, ”Lowe said.

In the following campaign, Gundogan was instrumental in helping Dortmund to the Champions League final, scoring a penalty in their loss to Bayern at Wembley. The two trophies won in his first season at the club would be his only major in yellow, as Bayern’s years of domination began, including three league titles under a certain Pep Guardiola.

Gundogan helped Borussia Dortmund to a league and cup brace in 2012, hampering Bayern Munich’s dominance

Establish yourself as a “top player” in Man City

After seeing Gundogan up close in Germany, Guardiola, now at Manchester City, named him a perfect player for his style and Oenning says the player and manager have continued to form a “special relationship”.

But it was no easy start to life in England for Gundogan. The city paid £ 20million for his services in June 2016, but he was still recovering from a dislocated patella – one of many injuries that included ruptured cruciate ligaments and a back injury for which a doctor wanted to insert a metal screw into his spine – and so on. did not debut until mid-September.

“When you come in injured it is more difficult to integrate into the team because the training helps a lot to talk with the new teammates, so it was difficult for him,” said former City midfielder Aleix Garcia .

Gundogan’s mark was made in October, when he scored twice in consecutive games, including a Champions League brace against Barcelona. Once again, the German was forced to work his way into the squad after a slow start.

“Playing alongside him was easy because he really enjoys playing football, playing short, one touch, possession stuff,” Garcia said. “I really enjoyed playing with him because I like to play like that, so we complemented each other really well. It was a pleasure to train and play with him. “

In those early days, Gundogan played a deeper role, before the crucial injury suffered in December interrupted his first season in England.

“Pep tried to ask him for the same football he played in Dortmund, but he had a little problem with the injuries,” Eibar midfielder Garcia said. “But now he’s one of City’s most important players,”

Gundogan has already won six major trophies at City and the current campaign is arguably the best of his career. In addition to his scoring exploits, he was captain of his country and won two back-to-back Premier League Player of the Month awards.

“It’s easy because he has improved a lot during those years and everyone knows how Gundogan is as a player,” said Garcia, “but he has more to show because he has a lot of qualities with the ball. . Physically, he is ready to play. 100% games; all the players in the world, they can only say that Gundogan is a top player. ”

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