Worth the wait for Mr Whippy! Manchester City star midfielder Ilkay Gundogan thrives after being loosened by boss Pep Guardiola … and he will take on former club Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday night
- Ilkay Gundogan was manager Pep Guardiola’s first addition to Manchester City
- The city boss had tried to take him over from Borussia Dortmund during his time at Bayern
- The central midfielder is probably playing against his old club for the first time
- City will face the German team in the quarter-finals of the Champions League on Tuesday-evening
Ilkay Gundogan’s importance to his manager was evident before the German even set foot in England.
Not only was he the first to sign Pep Guardiola’s reign, Manchester City also bought him out injured.
Not just any downside. Gundogan dislocated a kneecap while playing basketball for Euro 2016. He feared Tuesday’s £ 20 million move from opponent Borussia Dortmund would not happen, but Guardiola had none of that. The City boss called to reassure him and told Gundogan to go to Manchester.
Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan (right) thrives under Pep Guardiola (left)
Guardiola had tried to land Gundogan while at Bayern Munich and made it clear to City’s sporting director Txiki Begiristain that they really needed him in the months before they arrived as Manuel Pellegrini’s successor.
Gundogan didn’t debut until September and found a furrow before tearing his anterior cruciate ligament three months later. City and Guardiola waited again. The German midfielder was missing for 276 days.
On Tuesday evening he will take on his former employers for the first time. Gundogan is now 30, his story one of perseverance. He is City’s surprising top scorer with 16 this season, and the staff are delighted that he finally deserves credit.
In the Premier League, of those who have found the net more than 10 times, only Harry Kane and Mohamed Salah have better goal-per-minute records.
Guardiola tried to get him to Bayern Munich while the German was at Borussia Dortmund
Guardiola has been pushing Gundogan forward in recent months, and the calmness of his personality shines through everything. Nothing is rushed.
A Twitter account nicknamed him Mr Whippy after his curling 20-yard attack in the top corner of Crystal Palace three months ago. Done everything at his own pace, the congregating defenders ignored. The nickname stuck.
“The nice people deserve recognition,” Guardiola said.
‘I know how he behaved when he wasn’t playing, or when he wasn’t playing well in the bad moments. He is loved. An incredible person. He thinks what’s best for the team.
“The year we won the second league title with 98 points, he was an incredible midfielder.”
Gundogan was cleverly nicknamed ‘Mr Whippy’ after a curling attempt against Crystal Palace
Guardiola says Gundogan’s displays have not improved; his role has just changed. Until recently, he played matches alongside Rodri to help the midfielder adjust to English football.
The pair was criticized for lack of dynamism, but in retrospect, their partnership was necessary. Rodri is now more comfortable alone in midfield, so Gundogan can flourish in the final third. This is the kind of selfless approach that Guardiola loves.
The manager lives next to Gundogan in an apartment building in the city center and with respect for each other’s privacy, they occasionally drink a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.
A little football discussion, a lot more life chat. Gundogan bought presents for the staff in the back room at Christmas.
He lives alone and hasn’t seen his family since a trip to Turkey in August. The loneliness of lockdown hit him. Football Manager and FaceTime helped. Gundogan has given back to the local community by visiting the elderly, raising money for cafes and restaurants.
The 30-year-old has formed an effective midfielder partnership with his teammate Rodri
One of his lottery prizes – Phil Foden’s jersey from the thumping 4-1 win in Liverpool in February – raised £ 7,000.
Guardiola often cites his character and professionalism, so it may come as no surprise that he was chosen by his fellow players in City’s five-man leader group this season.
Quieter than most, he sets a good example. Out on the grass, he is the epitome of Guardiola’s methods. No wonder City waited and waited.