German midfielder Ilkay Gundogan played a prominent role in stripping Manchester City of its Spanish guest, Real Madrid, of its title as European Champions League champion, by crushing it 4-0 in the second leg of the semi-final in Manchester.
Spanish coach Josep Guardiola, coach of Manchester City, spoke of Gundogan’s brilliance against Real Madrid and before that against Everton and Leeds United in the struggle to win the English Premier League title with rival Arsenal.
Gundogan’s contract with City expires this summer, when he was linked to his departure to Barcelona, but Guardiola seems very happy with the brilliance of the team leader.
Manchester City spends most of its time in the English Premier League playing in front of defensive blocs and solid defense lines consisting of four or five players who do their best to keep Manchester City players out of their goal; For this reason, it is very important for midfielders to play between the lines and take advantage of small spaces.
Gundogan is one of the best players in terms of moving in empty spaces and resolving difficult matches. In addition to the German star’s brilliance against Real Madrid and his contribution to his team’s qualification to the Champions League final, Gundogan performed impressively in the two wins that City achieved in the last two matches in the English Premier League against Everton and Leeds, and he needed only one victory from his remaining three matches in the competition.
And at Goodison Park, Everton entered the match as expected, given the team’s precarious position in the English Premier League, and the way coach Sean Dyck relies on it.
Everton relied on four players in the back line, and sometimes even five players when left-back Dwight McNeil returned to help Mason Holgate in an attempt to reduce the danger of Riyad Mahrez. Everton’s reliance on three players in the heart of the midfield made the task difficult for Manchester City, as City players found it very difficult to penetrate Everton’s lines, and they failed to hit any shot on goal until after half an hour had passed.
As was the case in the Leeds United match in the match that preceded the Everton confrontation, Everton found that resistance was completely useless against Gundogan. Against Leeds United, led by veteran coach Sam Allardyce, Gundogan scored two goals in the same way, but against Everton the German midfield star shone more, scoring two goals and assisting a third.
Gundogan scored the first goal with exceptional skill, as he brilliantly received the cross ball and put it into the goal easily, even though his back was to the goal. We usually see Gundogan pass the ball without looking at his teammate, as if he is already saving his place, but the player was more genius and wonderful in this shot. Gundogan is often seen as a hard-working player who puts in a lot of effort on the field, but that hard work is backed up by the matchless intelligence and steel will that sets him apart from the rest of his peers.
Many see Gundogan as possessing the qualities and personality to make him a great, elite manager in the future, thanks to his ability to read the game, always know where his team mates should be, and anticipate where the ball will be passed next.
In front of Everton, and after Gundogan gave Manchester City the lead, he returned after only two minutes to set up a goal for the giant Norwegian striker Erling Haaland, who did not hesitate to put the ball into the net with his head. Despite the importance of the goals Haaland scores for Manchester City, what Gundogan is doing at the present time is no less important at all.
Gundogan was not satisfied with that, but he continued his brilliance and scored the second goal for him and the third for his team, when he advanced to take a direct free kick from 20 yards, for the ball to pass the human wall and Everton goalkeeper, Jordan Pickford, who contented himself with flying in the back of the net as he saw the ball entering the net.
Gundogan has the ability to play in any midfield position. Against Leeds United, he replaced Rodri as the focal point in a three-man midfield, allowing the Spanish midfielder to get a much-needed rest. As Gundogan knows how to read the game, he fulfilled this role perfectly, continuing to use his attacking talent to find the right moments to score goals.
Against Everton, Gundogan was playing in his favorite position as an attacking midfielder, which made him get closer to the goal and carry out his offensive duties optimally, providing the necessary support to his teammates in the last third of the field.
Despite Idrissa Guy and James Garner trying to close the spaces available to Manchester City players, Gundogan was constantly moving, always working to open gaps in Everton’s lines. Moreover, having a defensively disciplined player like Rodri helped Gundogan carry out his attacking duties without worrying that Manchester City would be subjected to quick counter-attacks should they lose the ball.
And because Guardiola knows very well that Manchester City cannot play without Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne and Gundogan at the same time, the Spanish coach decided to rest De Bruyne against Everton after the legendary effort he made against Real Madrid in the first leg, and continued to rely on Gundogan. The return match against Real Madrid was Gundogan’s 58th match this season with Manchester City and the Germany national team, yet he was wandering around the green rectangle and did not seem affected at all physically, even though he was thirty-two years old.
Gundogan joined Manchester City while he was recovering from the injury he suffered in the right knee, and then he ruptured the cruciate ligament in the same knee, but he has played more than 100 games in the past two seasons, and it is likely that he will play six more matches until the end of the season, Which Manchester City hopes to end by winning the Champions League title.
It is clear that age is not an immediate problem for Gundogan or Manchester City, but in light of the German player’s contract expiring at the end of the current season, and not signing a new contract, there is a possibility that the player will leave after seven years spent at the Etihad Stadium.
Guardiola has made it clear to Manchester City officials that he wants the continuation of the team leader, not only because of what the player offers on the field, but because of what he offers outside it as well, especially since the player has a calm personality and is an example to follow within the club, and he enjoys great respect from all the team players.
It can be said that the current season is Gundogan’s best ever in the Premier League, and it is impossible for Manchester City to replace a player with such great skills and potential. Winning the Champions League title on June 10 to complete the historic treble may be a perfect ending for many, but Gundogan is still able to give and lead Manchester City to more championships and titles in the coming years.
* The Guardian sports service