Manchester United could be set to announce the signing of Borussia Dortmund midfielder Ilkay Gundogan for a fee of £20 million, as the race for his signature heightens.
Big changes are expected at Signal Iduna Park this summer, with manager Jurgen Klopp already confirmed as leaving and has been replaced by Thomas Tuchel, and Gundogan, 24, has already informed the club that he will not be signing an extension to his contract, which runs out in 2016.
Following in the footsteps of Nuri Sahin was quite a task. For many players the bar may have been set too high, and after a quarter of the season Ilkay Gundogan was once again on the bench. But he fought back only to be knocked by injury and illness. However, in the final third of the season he pretty much defined matters on the field as the Double was secured.
"Joachim Löw soon identified his talent and brought him into his squad even at a time when a first cap didn’t seem an obvious development,” is how Jürgen Klopp described Ilkay Gundogan’s call up. He made his international debut on October 11, 2011 and was in the 23-man squad for EURO 2012.
The young international describes the moment as being like: “A dream come true. I am so happy, and all at the age of 21, to experience all this.” Starting at SV Gelsenkirchen-Hessler 06, then Schalke 04 and finally SSV Buer, Gündogan arrived at VfL Bochum in 2005 as a highly talented youth team player. There he matured into a national team player at junior levels and in 2008-09 played twice for Bochum’s amateur team in the regional leagues. Nuremberg (then in the 2nd division) spotted him and signed him up for the second half of that season.
He got to play once for the team as they enjoyed a promotion season but it was in the following season that Ilkay Gundogan began to promote himself. He soon became a key player operating in central midfield directing play whilst quietly finishing his ‘A’ levels on the side. It was very important to Gundogan to complete his education despite what was becoming a very promising career in football, “Because once you give up the game there aren’t too many obvious opportunities, and only very few earn enough to see them to old age.” His coach at Nuremberg, Dieter Hecking, was instrumental in his decision to continue his football education at Borussia Dortmund.
He felt sure that the sporting perspectives and possibilities for personal development were ideal for a young player like Ilkay and pointed him in the direction of BVB and Jürgen Klopp. Gündogan, himself, noticed during his two meetings and countless phone calls with Klopp that there was complete confidence in his ability.
That said, his start at the home of the German champions was anything but problem-free. “With all due respect to Nuremberg, the quality of players, the environment is quite superior in Dortmund,” said Gündogan. To begin with he joined Sven Bender as the defensive midfield duo but Gündogan was initially unable to return to the level of performances he had been displaying at his former club and, inevitably lost his place in the starting XI. Klopp’s decision to occasionally leave his young player out of the squad altogether in order to spare the lad from the media frenzy rather than for sporting reasons met with not a murmur of disapproval from the player himself.
Gundogan is set to add some grit and stability in the midfield alongside Daley Blind and Ander Herrera or can be use interchangeably with the aging but very efficient Micheal Carrick.
Carrick, in the Premier League, has scored one goal this season, creating 28 chances and no assists. Carrick has completed 1763 passes this season with a pass accuracy of 88%, of which 84% were forward passes.
Carrick's likely successor Gundogan made six appearances in the Champions League. He has also featured in the German Bundesliga 23 times. In the Champions League he failed to score this season, creating six chances and one assist. The midfielder completed 372 passes this season with a pass accuracy of 91%, of which 73% were forward passes.
Despite prolonged injury problems across the last two seasons, Gundogan remains one of the world's highest-rated midfielders. He is an intelligent ballplayer who can fulfil a number of roles in the middle. If given the chance at Manchester United he is expected to flourish.