Ilkay Gündogan gave an long interview to German sports magazine kicker. German freelance sports journalist Alex Truica translated large parts of it. Gündogan speaks about his new, more attacking role at Manchester City, his work under Pep Guardiola and the expectations at the club.
Do you have to pinch yourself sometimes to make sure the results of the last days and weeks haven’t been a dream?
No, I don’t have to. I’m happy that everything is going so well. I think the summer was the right time to risk something new and I can already tell that Manchester City is the right club for me. There will surely be some people who do not see it as the best path for me – but for me the first weeks have been a confirmation. It was a bold move, but it was a worthwhile one.
In your first ten games, you scored five goals, almost as many as in your last two years at Borussia Dortmund. Is it only a coincidence or did Guardiola arouse an instinct in you?
I think it’s due to the role I play in the team. I know that with Fernandinho, there’s a defensive minded holding midfielder behind me who’s always there to cover for me. Therefore I play more offensive minded, most of the time as an 8 or sometimes even as a 10 being closer to the box.
It appears that you seem to know how to be just on the right spot…
Maybe there’s something to that. Although: Even in my time at Dortmund, I was often pretty much on the right spot, but the balls didn’t want to get to me. This was totally different against West Bromwich and Barcelona, hopefully it continues like that.
You decided to to take the offer of Manchester City especially because of Pep Guardiola. After working some weeks under him: What makes him so unique and important for a player?
He leaves nothing to chance and he knows in every situation what to give you, especially regarding tactical knowledge. You have the feeling 99 per cent safety isn’t enough for him, he wants 100 per cent and being completely sure that the ideas he has are perfectly aligned on the game and the opposition. And he has ideas that you might not understand as a player right away, but they work perfectly.
Against Barcelona, after half an hour he switched from 4-1-4-1 to 4-4-2. He completely gave us a new feeling with that, suddenly we had the game under control. It’s unique how he does that. But his players at Barcelona and Bayern already said that about him. And all his successes are no accident.
In what way are there any similarities or differences to your former Dortmund coaches Jürgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel?
Jürgen Klopp was different, very emotional. With Thomas Tuchel there have been similarities, regarding training topics and in-game tactics – but Pep Guardiola is something else. I only knew him as an opponent so far. Although we were able to beat him here and there with Dortmund, it was for me and my teammates impressive how he always found solutions for every situation. Now I witness all that directly, and it helps me a lot.
What is he asking and demanding of you?
An awful lot, he sets the bar very, very high. He’s fixated on me playing the perfect game if possible. I have to be active in build-up play, call for the ball and pass it on up front. It doesn’t always work out, but quite often it does – but if it does not, he shows me what the reason was. So I try implement it the next time.
Is Manchester City a level above Borussia Dortmund?
I totally have that feeling. An example: When I get to the training facilities by car it’s just extremely impressive. That can’t even be compared to Bayern Munich, it’s a different story. You realise that you have arrived at a super club which has set out for great things and wants to develop great things in the upcoming years. Accordingly, the pressure and responsibility for every single player is high. That’s different to Dortmund.
To what extent?
In Dortmund you knew that Bayern Munich is the clear No. 1. You can beat them, but on the long run the chances are not very good. Here you indicate that you strive for the biggest things. That didn’t work out on an international level in the last years, but on a national level Man City reached the target with championships in 2012 and 2014. The expectations are always very high.
Does this mean that everything else but the title would be a disappointment for the club?
If you ask me that way, I’d say no. But I can imagine that many people here see it differently – which I understand. As said, the expectations are extremely high because of the transfer and especially because of Pep, who is the personification of success. That’s why people expect a lot from us.
Alex Truica works as a freelance sports journalist and editor, covering international football. You can follow him on Twitter: @AlexTruica.