Under Pep Guardiola, Man City has rarely been shaken up because of the departure of a player. But the case of Ilkay Gundogan will be the exception?
Most players reach the peak of their football careers near the age of 30. Others can still reach their peak at the age of 30. Ilkay Gundogan is in the second group. The German midfielder proved it in his last two seasons at Man City.
Farewell to an Etihad Stadium legend
On May 22, 2022, an earthquake seemed to have occurred on Etihad Stadium. In the 69th minute, Philippe Coutinho scored to make it 2-0 for Aston Villa in the match against Man City in the 38th round of the Premier League. The result will make “The Citizens” lose the championship to Liverpool.
Gundogan did not let that terrible scenario happen. The first is a mighty header. Next, a buffer phase close to the ball. Everything happened in just 5 minutes. “The Citizens” upstream won 3-2 and the championship trophy remained with Manchester City.
True fate knows how to arrange, making Gundogan a big player in an important match. A year later, scoring twice against Aston Villa, the German midfielder shone again in the FA Cup final, he scored twice to help the home team beat Man Utd with a score of 2-1.
At the age of 32, Gundogan is the captain of Man City. A leader in the dressing room. Legend of Etihad Stadium. Closing the 2022/23 season, the German midfielder won three championships with the home team, including the Premier League, FA Cup, and Champions League.
True fate knows how to make up for Gundogan. When he was young, he was often injured. When coming to Man City , there were concerns that this player would be difficult to explode because of a dense history of injuries. In other words, Gundogan was not as lucky as many of his colleagues when his legs suffered a lot of damage.
After all, Gundogan upsets all expectations. He repays the faith of Pep Guardiola, who ignores all warnings about the German midfielder. In 2023, Gundogan plays a world-class central midfielder. The one with all the highest honors at club level.
If you compare the Gundogan with the property, it still has value. However, “The Citizens” unexpectedly let the German midfielder leave in the summer of 2023. The former Dortmund star joined Barca, despite the Etihad Stadium team’s proposal to extend the contract for a year with an extension of 12 months.
Worth mentioning, Gundogan arrived at Barca on a free transfer , ie Man City lost this star. In football, letting a star player leave for free is never a good idea. The moment Gundogan parted ways with Man City, fans wondered if the team had made a big mistake?
Gundogan’s contract should have been extended most from the middle of last season instead of waiting until the end of the 2022/23 season. Gundogan is not over yet. Barca knew that, they immediately recruited this player. The representative of Catalonia collected a valuable bargain.
British media revealed that Gundogan left Man City because he wanted to take on a new challenge. But that was only when the player received more attractive offers than “The Citizens” at the end of the season. Man City’s response is said to be too late. That made them unable to convince Gundogan to stay at the club.
To replace Gundogan, Man City rushed to recruit Mateo Kovacic from Chelsea to fill the gap in midfield. Replacing a leader is never an easy task. Even if it’s Kovacic, a seasoned player who played for Real Madrid and lifted many big trophies.
Kovacic is younger than Gundogan, he is only 29 years old. The Croatian midfielder is part of the Real Madrid squad that has won the Champions League three times in a row. To Chelsea, Kovacic also held the prestigious elephant ear trophy. An awesome resume.
In theory, Kovacic is capable of making fans forget about Gundogan. However, experts believe that the level of the 29-year-old midfielder cannot be compared to his senior. Kovacic has not made much progress in recent times.
At Real Madrid, Kovacic was mainly a substitute for Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric. When Chelsea won the Champions League in the 2020/21 season, the mark this midfielder made was not too bold. The big stage belongs to N’Golo Kante, Jorginho.
According to transfer expert Dean Jones, Kovacic is not Man City’s top choice. “In theory, Kovacic is the perfect replacement for Gundogan. But, I know that Man City have three, four or even five other options. It can’t be ruled out that Man City will bring in another midfielder at Etihad.” , Mr. Dean Jones shared with GiveMeSport.
Waiting for Pep to show his talent
Since Pep came to Man City, every year has seen a legend of the club leave. The year 2017 is Pablo Zabaleta. A year later it was Yaya Toure’s turn. In 2019, it was Vincent Kompany and David Silva in 2020. In 2021, Man City parted ways with Sergio Aguero and most recently Fernandinho last year.
Man City knows how to choose the right time to bid farewell to legends and replace them. It may take a year or two – as was the case with Kompany and Aguero – but City are sure to find someone who can fill the huge void left by those brilliant names.
Recently, Pep hinted that he would make adjustments, such as bringing Phil Foden to Gundogan’s place. John Stones can also be chosen to replace the senior. This season, the former Everton midfielder has become the most impressive “invention” of the Catalan captain when he plays very well in the role of an anchor midfielder.
Experts say that Kovacic is only expected to play a backup role at Etihad Stadium. Foden is a strong candidate to replace Gundogan. But it also does not rule out the possibility that Pep will upgrade Kovacic, turning him into a versatile player. In terms of raising the level for students, Pep is very good.
There is a football cliché that being flexible easily holds back a player because it prevents him from becoming an “expert” in a fixed position. Kovacic is not really versatile, but throughout his career it has been difficult to categorize exactly what kind of midfielder he is.
Kovacic is not good at scoring or creating, controlling the tempo of the game is not too impressive. In terms of defense, he cannot compare with Rodri, an expert in this field. The strongest point of the Croatian midfielder is the ability to dribble and move the ball from the defense to the top.
Overall, just this skill is not enough. However, there are many reasons for fans to believe that Kovacic will explode in a Man City shirt. It’s all in Pep. Let’s wait and see how the former Barca captain will coach the Croatian midfielder? Will there be any new “inventions” released by Pep with Kovacic as the main theme? Let’s see!