Gundogan: Leaving Man City is bittersweet

26 Jun 2023

Former captain on his time at the club, saying goodbye to Guardiola and hailing Haaland's impact

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As Ilkay Gundogan leaves for Barcelona, the former Manchester City captain has given a touching testimonial about his time at the club, saying goodbye to Pep Guardiola and predicting even greater things for Erling Haaland.

Gundogan has written an article for The Players' Tribune as he ends his seven-year stay at the Etihad Stadium.

"When I first arrived here, I was a young man with no kids and a lot of dreams," he said. "It’s hard for me to even believe, but I am leaving seven years later as a father who has fulfilled every single dream that he ever had. 

"Today is bittersweet.

"Goodbyes are never easy, but it’s even harder with this team. When I had to break the news to the boys that I was leaving in our group chat, I was very emotional.

"I will miss all of them, honestly. But I am happy to say that I’m leaving here as a champion, and I have nothing but love for the club in my heart. How many footballers can say goodbye as the captain of a treble team? 

"It’s amazing what we achieved. Five Premier League titles in my seven years here. Two FA Cups. The [UEFA] Champions League. The treble. But those are just trophies. The thing that I will remember the most is the feeling inside the squad, especially this season. I’ve never experienced something like it in football."

Gundogan was the first signing after Guardiola took charge of Man City in the summer of 2016.

"I have to say, none of this would have been possible without Pep," Gundogan continued. "There are times when he is so demanding of how we play and so intense that it can be a bit difficult, mentally. But once everyone gets on the same page and we are in harmony on the pitch, his system is so efficient that it almost feels effortless. 

"I have always felt a close bond with Pep. 

"One of the hardest calls I had to make was to Pep, telling him that I was going to leave. All I could do was to say thank you. Not just for this season, or for all the trophies, but for bringing me here in the first place.

"I will never forget when I hurt my knee at the end of the [2015/16] season with Dortmund and I had to get surgery, I was so worried that City would pull out of the deal for me. But Pep called me on the phone and said, 'Don’t worry, it doesn’t change anything. We want you here. We will wait for you no matter how long it takes.'

"I think maybe Pep was hoping that we would come here to City together and leave together, but I know that he understands my decision. I am sure it helps that I’m going to his boyhood club. Hopefully we’ll have a reunion soon in a Champions League final.

"If I was going to move, there is only one club in the world that made sense. It was Barcelona or nothing. Ever since I was a little kid, I dreamed of wearing that shirt some day. I am confident that I have a few more years left at the highest level, and I just want to help bring Barcelona back to where they deserve to be."

Gundogan believes Haaland is only just getting started after scoring 36 Premier League goals in his debut season, a record for a single campaign in the competition. 

"Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect when he came here," said Gundogan. "You see the goals and all the attention that he was getting at Dortmund, and you wonder if he’s going to fit with the group.

"But when I got to know him, I was so surprised how someone could be that talented and still have the will to be even better every single day. He’s never satisfied. I feel like there are no limits for him. [Lionel] Messi and [Cristiano] Ronaldo are the only comparison for the level he could reach."

The full article of Gundogan's tribute to Man City can be read here.

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