As Ilkay Gundogan becomes the first signing of the Pep Guardiola era, we speak to the New York Times’ Bundesliga writer Stefan Bienkowski about what the German midfielder could offer the City team, and much more. Read the full interview below:
Gundogan’s price seems surprising low for a player of his calibre, how much do you think he is worth?
He’s a better player than Granit Xhaka but for more injury prone so with a full contract behind him I would have fancied him to go for about the same rate as the new Arsenal addition [£30m].
What sort of role do you think that Gundogan will play at City?
He’s predominantly a central midfielder, and under Pep, I’d expect him to play a similar role to the one Thiago did at Bayern. The best way to describe it is almost as a deep lying playmaker who can at times push forward and lurk on the edge of the box.
What assets does Gundogan bring to the City team?
He’s an exceptionally gifted individual with the ball at his feet. His passing is spectacular, and he’s never afraid to dribble straight down the middle of the pitch directly at an opposing defence. But he also had a tenacity which allows him to play defensive roles too.
Do you think that it will take Gundogan long to adapt to the Premier League?
No, not at all. He’ll walk into that Man City squad and assuming he’s fit; he should hit the ground running.
If you could liken Gundogan to one City player, who would it be?
I don’t think there are any City players like him, hence why Pep has signed him. He can pass and dribble like [David] Silva but tackle like Fernando.
How big of a concern is Gundogan’s sketchy injury record?
His injury problems are a genuine concern. He has a back condition which Dortmund to this day still aren’t entirely sure how to fix. Unless Man City have a far better medical department (which they might), then fans should expect to see him miss 10-15 games a season. I’m afraid that’s just the way it is.
Guardiola obviously likes Gundogan as he’s made him his first signing. With Vincent Kompany’s injury record and Yaya Toure’s expected departure, do you think that Gundogan has the qualities to be a future City captain?
He can certainly be a captain one day. I’d be very surprised if Pep made an incoming transfer his captain in his first season but 2-3 years down the line certainly wouldn’t be a surprise. He is a leader in midfield and is (largely) cool on the pitch.
Are any other Bundesliga players likely to follow in Gundogan’s footsteps by joining him at the Etihad this summer?
Thiago was the one heavily linked with a move to Manchester, but he has since committed himself to Bayern. [Henrikh] Mkhitaryan will almost certainly move to England, but that probably won’t happen until his contract expires next summer.
We’d like to thank Stefan Bienkowski for speaking to our editor, Jack Brain.