Ilkay Gundogan, the highly regarded Germany international, has bid farewell to Manchester City, concluding a remarkable seven-year tenure at the Etihad Stadium. Throughout his time at the club, Gundogan has firmly etched his name as a legend, much like esteemed figures Vincent Kompany, David Silva, and Sergio Aguero, evoking profound affection from the devoted supporters.
Gundogan’s illustrious journey encompassed the acquisition of 12 significant trophies, wherein his contributions played a pivotal role. Time and again, he demonstrated his prowess on the grandest stages, earning the reputation of being City’s go-to player during crucial moments. Kyle Walker, in fact, highlighted that the versatile midfielder seemed to transcend into a “prime (Zinedine) Zidane” incarnation as each season approached its culmination.
Given Gundogan’s extraordinary impact, perhaps it is now fitting to contemplate the construction of another statue outside the hallowed grounds of the Etihad Stadium, commemorating his enduring legacy.
Gundogan’s first goal
Gundogan was the first signing of Pep Guardiola’s tenure, but he missed the start of the 2016-17 season through injury. However, when he finally returned to full fitness, he made an instant impact, winning a penalty in his first appearance, in a 4-0 Champions League rout of Borussia Monchengladbach, before opening his City account on his Premier League debut three days later, against Bournemouth.
A brace against Barca
City had been humiliated by Lionel Messi in their Champions League group-stage meeting with Barcelona in October 2016, with the Argentine scoring a hat-trick in a 4-0 win at Camp Nou.
It initially appeared that the No.10 might run riot again when he opened the scoring in the return clash at the Etihad. However, Gundogan then got to work, turning in a low cross from Raheem Sterling to level the game and then sealing a stunning 3-1 win after pouncing on a loose ball in the area.
The long road to recovery
Gundogan left the pitch in tears and Guardiola was “so sad” after the German suffered knee ligament damage in a 2-0 win over Watford in December 2016. The manager feared that one of his key men would be out of action for “several months”, and so it proved. Gundogan only returned to action in September of the following year, but when he did, as a substitute in a 6-0 demolition of the same side at Vicarage Road, he was given a rapturous reception by the visiting supporters.
It quickly became clear that City were one of the finest exponents of possession football the English game had ever seen, and Gundogan was integral to the way in which they hogged the ball. In a historically-dominant 1-0 win over Chelsea in March 2018, he broke the Premier League’s individual records for most attempted passes (174) and most successful passes (167) in a single game. The previous record-holder? Naturally, another City legend – Yaya Toure.
A historic day at Anfield
Gundogan is made of stern stuff, as already underlined by the way in which he recovered from his serious knee injury, but he also showed his mental strength after recovering from an atrocious first-half penalty miss at Liverpool in February 2021.
Not only did Gundogan belatedly break the deadlock by following up a Phil Foden shot that Alisson had failed to hold, he also restored City’s lead to help secure the club’s first win at Anfield since 2003.