Ilkay Gundogan has confirmed he received an offer to join Manchester United twice and explained exactly why a move to Old Trafford failed to materialise.
The German midfielder had been heavily linked with a move to the Premier League for several summers before Pep Guardiola finally made the decisive move in the most recent summer transfer window.
Borussia Dortmund were forced to accept a bid in the region of £20m after Gundogan confirmed he would not be extending his contract beyond 2017. He became the first of many new signings for the Citizens and is slowly bedding himself into the team after recovering from a dislocated knee cap.
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But things could have been very different for both him and the city he now calls home. He was given the chance to join Manchester United in successive summers two and three years ago but opted to stay in the Bundesliga on both occasions.
"It is not the biggest lie,” he told The Telegraph when asked why the move never happened. “Two years ago, three years ago it was not the time. I had a contract at Dortmund and I was not thinking of leaving the club so it was not a discussion.”
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Things appear to have worked out for both clubs. Guardiola got his No.1 transfer target while Jose Mourinho was able to offer Paul Pogba a key role in his new team. For Gundogan, it seems Man City came calling at exactly the right time in his career.
"It was time to go, move on and start a new adventure, a new chapter"
He said: "I think for me it was the perfect time. I’m 25-years-old and I achieved everything in Germany – I had won the championship, the cup. It was time to go, move on and start a new adventure, a new chapter.
"Also the combination with Pep and the club – it’s perfect for my type of football. It was not a difficult decision. It was quite easy. I enjoyed my years at Dortmund and thank and appreciate them but I wanted to go and show [elsewhere] how I play football. That’s what I mean by wanting to start from zero.”
Hard but fun
Guardiola appears to have played a key role in Gundogan's decision to finally leave the Westfalenstadion. Having faced his Bayern Munich team on a regular basis in the Bundesliga, the midfielder was already confident he had what it took to play in a system of describes as hard work but fun.
“I knew his style of football before at Barcelona and also at Bayern Munich because I played against them."
“We have a very good relationship and I just try to learn from him and he just tries to teach me and show me how I can improve and do better. I think we are both enjoying it,” he said.
“I knew his style of football before at Barcelona and also at Bayern Munich because I played against them. So I was quite sure it fits to my style very well.
"I just have really more fun than ever to be on the field, to play and enjoy this football – the passing, the possession, to keep the ball and if we lose it to take it back as soon as possible. It’s hard work. Very hard work. But we should never forget that it is fun. There is sometimes a danger that we all, not just players, but everyone forgets that the main thing of this sport is to have fun, to enjoy it, to enjoy the moments.”
"But we should never forget that it is fun. There is sometimes a danger that we all, not just players, but everyone forgets that the main thing of this sport is to have fun, to enjoy it, to enjoy the moments.”