Speaking in an extensive interview with France Football, Ilkay Gundogan said that Barcelona are a team in progress, and while the project is really good, there is still a long way to go for them to assert domination like they did in the past.
Gundogan, who signed for Barcelona in June this year on a free transfer, talked in detail about several aspects, including the difference between the top coaches he has trained under, namely, Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola, and Xavi.
“With Klopp in Dortmund, we played intense football with winning the second ball and quick rebounds and he helped me a lot even in terms of understanding the game.
“Pep focuses on positional play. What was required was to find the appropriate spaces and always find the free player
“Xavi is very similar to Pep. They trained in the same place, received the same football education, and faced the same demands. They talk the same football,” he explained.
“I’m hungry and I still want to learn. With Barcelona, we are still working on developing the team. We still have a long way to go, but the project is great,” he added.
What next for Gundogan?
Gundogan joined Barcelona after winning the UEFA Champions League with Man City, completing a sweet treble comprising the continental title, Premier League honour, and the FA Cup.
At 33-year-old age, he is heading towards the final years of his career and when asked about his future plans, he explained that all he wants is to help his teammates.
“I’m trying to keep playing at the highest level for a few more years, because I still feel good. I came to Barcelona to take on a new challenge and prove myself in this great club. But I don’t want to set goals. We must not say: ‘We want to win this, this and that.’
“For me, it’s about being able to help my teammates as much as I can. Conversely, I may also need help. Just because I’m older or more experienced doesn’t mean I don’t need it. Football is a team sport and everyone should help and support each other,” he said.
Ilkay Gundgan: The most underrated player
Gundigan’s Man City teammates Bernardo Silva and Jack Grealish are in awe of the midfielder so much so that they believe the German is arguably the most underrated player in the sport.
Reflecting on his thoughts on the same, Gundogan said that if that is the case, he must not get the credit alone as football is a team sport.
“I appreciate that, they are both very smart players and know that great players need others to shine. No one can succeed in this sport alone, and to gain recognition, you need players who may not get the same amount of limelight, but they help you achieve achievements.
“This is what I’m trying to do. I’m just trying to be smart and make the best decisions I can and make my teammates better.”
“I don’t like to talk about myself. I prefer others to answer this question,” he added.
Gundogan’s preferred position
Gundogan occupied almost every midfield position under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, but he plays at either the number 6 or number 8 spot at Barcelona.
When asked about the same, the German said that he does not have a preferred position as he likes to be positioned according to the shape of the team.
“I see myself as where I can best help my team. I don’t mind playing in all these positions. I adapt to what is asked of me.
“At City, I played everywhere. At Barcelona, I play as a 6 and 8 at the moment. But my position also depends on the shape of the team, the training, and the type of players on the field
“I think that to play a certain type of football, you also need a certain type of player
“I played a lot in possession-based teams, so if the ball moves well, the passes are correct, and I can move the opponent well, it doesn’t matter where I play. I can go anywhere, where I can influence the game more,” he said.
Lastly, the defender also spoke about current Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta, another disciple of Guardiola. Arteta once commented that Gundogan is not someone who likes to shine. Rather, he makes others shine.
“I really like it. I could say the same thing about myself and that sums me up well as a footballer, but also as a person. I care a lot about the people around me, although it may not always be obvious.
“I want to be the best person I can be. It’s the same with football, I really want to make my teammates better by helping them in the best way I can and that’s essential for me,” he said.