Manchester City star Ilkay Gundogan turn down old friend Jurgen Klopp, joins Pep Guardiola

"They remain friends even though Gundogan turned down his old manager and joined City for £20million instead"

Manchester City star Ilkay Gundogan turn down old friend Jurgen Klopp, joins Pep Guardiola

"They remain friends even though Gundogan turned down his old manager and joined City for £20million instead"

13 January 2018 Saturday 14:46
Manchester City star Ilkay Gundogan turn down old friend Jurgen Klopp, joins Pep Guardiola

It's a measure of how highly Manchester City and Liverpool regarded Ilkay Gundogan that he was still laid up after knee surgery when they fought to sign him in the summer of 2016.

Pep Guardiola wanted to make Gundogan his first signing at the Etihad. Jurgen Klopp wanted to be reunited with his former Borussia Dortmund midfielder. Guardiola won.

Technically adept on the ball and tenacious in winning it back, Gundogan is an ideal fit for the high-intensity style of two coaches who meet head on at Anfield on Sunday.

The 27-year-old Germany international will address the Liverpool boss by his nickname 'Kloppo'. They remain friends even though Gundogan turned down his old manager and joined City for £20million instead.

'I spoke with Jurgen about different things,' Gundogan says. 'He always liked me as a player and I would be a liar if I said he didn't try. But when I had the opportunity to join City and work with Pep, it was quite clear that I wanted to come here.

'When I was a little bit down because of my injury, he was quite sure he was still going to try to buy me. That showed me it could never be the wrong decision to join this club. They are both great managers, great characters and very ambitious. I've been lucky.'

Gundogan won the Bundesliga title at Dortmund and also reached the Champions League final in 2013, scoring a penalty in the 2-1 defeat by rivals Bayern Munich at Wembley.

In a biography on Klopp published in September, he revealed that his old boss was not averse to allowing the occasional team drinking session.

He also recalls white-water rafting trips on pre-season camp in Austria. 'A few times, to build the spirit.'

But above all, Gundogan knows just how difficult it will be to subdue a Klopp team in full cry at Anfield.

It remains the one Premier League ground where Man City have failed to win since the Abu Dhabi takeover in 2008. You have to go back almost 15 years for their last victory there.

If Liverpool cannot derail City's unbeaten and seemingly unstoppable title charge, who can?

'It could be a big moment for us,' says Gundogan. 'Anfield is one of the hardest stages in the world and on good days Liverpool are able to beat any team in the world.

'It's more exciting for everyone when you have two top teams who try to attack and try to create chances.

'I can imagine it's not attractive for the spectators when we play teams with 10 players around their own box, just defending and hoping for a set-piece or throw-in, anything.

'We need to be ready to show the same spirit as we did away at Chelsea and Manchester United. We have beaten all the big teams until now and we want to continue on Sunday.'

It has raised talk of an unprecedented Quadruple. The runaway Premier League leaders have one foot in the Carabao Cup final after beating Bristol City earlier this week, and will be strong contenders in the Champions League and FA Cup as well. So can they win all four?

'It's difficult,' says Gundogan, breaking into a smile.

'If I said yes now I would disagree with the manager, and that wouldn't be so smart! We have a lot of games to go, and a lot of hurdles to take, but everything is possible.'

What about emulating Arsenal's Invincibles?

'We are in a comfortable situation and enjoy being on top.

'Having that gap also gives us confidence. This season is special as we are winning and winning and winning. We will try to go all the way. Maybe we will lose one day and maybe we won't.

'We always feel safe. In games where we don't score many goals, we still feel quite sure we won't concede much. And in games where we concede one or two, we feel we can score a lot more.

'At this point, it just fits automatically. It's just there. We don't think about it much. On the field, everyone knows exactly what we need to do. Sometimes it's strange.

'I have never felt at any time this season there is a safe first XI, just players who play more and some who play less.

'There is even more potential in this team. We didn't play badly last season but it was more up and down. This season, we are just on a wave and it's very hard to get us off this wave.'

Softly spoken and unfailingly polite, Gundogan comes from a close family. Among others, it includes older brother Ilker, cousin Ilkan, father Irfan and his uncle and agent Ilhan.

'We have quite similar names in the family,' says Gundogan, grinning again. 'Especially the men's names. I don't know whose idea that was.'

His grandfather Ismail emigrated from Balikesir in the west of Turkey and settled in Gelsenkirchen, where he worked down the coal mines.

Ilkay was the third member of the family to be born in Germany. His father worked as a delivery driver for the Stauder brewery in Essen and his mother Ayten was a cook at a health club. Their two boys started playing football at SV Gelsenkirchen-Hessler 06.

'The idea of my parents was to keep us away from the streets,' says Gundogan, who came through the youth ranks at Vfl Bochum before making his name at FC Nuremberg. 'Gelsenkirchen is not a rich city. The crime is above average so they always tried to keep us away from bad things, and I think they were successful.

'My parents wanted me to have a good education, so I finished school, and at the same time I was able to play football. I grew up in a very multi-cultural society.

'Still today, my best friends are German from Morocco, from Tunisia, from Poland. Very mixed. I always saw it as a nice thing, seeing different cultures. It felt like a new experience.'

It is one of the reasons Gundogan, like Guardiola, has chosen to live in a city-centre apartment with his cousin Ilkan rather than the Cheshire countryside. The millionaire lifestyle is not for him.


Updated: 13.01.2018 15:03
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