The Champions League final between Manchester City and Chelsea could be live on Saturday evening (9 p.m. DAZN ) four Germans appear right from the start. The quartet’s situation could hardly be more different: While Ilkay Gündogan and Antonio Rüdiger have matured into absolute top performers, the storm duo Timo Werner and Kai Havertz are worries in the Blues. SPOX and goal illuminates the situation of the four national players.
Not Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez or the outgoing Sergio Aguero. Not even young star Phil Foden, director Kevin De Bruyne or Gabriel Jesus. No, the top scorer of the English champions goes by the name of Ilkay Gündogan this season. The 30-year-old has scored a total of 17 goals this season, three of them (plus one assist) in the premier class. No question about it, Gündogan is playing the season of his life.
This started completely unfavorable. The midfielder missed the first three league games due to a corona illness, which bothered him so much that he started a campaign that works against trivializing the deadly disease.
“I had pretty much all the symptoms. Starting with a fever, sore throat, loss of taste. I felt more bad than ever before,” said Gündogan, outlining the virus that has kept the world in suspense for over a year. The corona diagnosis was a “shock”, a “slap in the face” for him, “because it was a completely new experience for me.”
Gündogan and the season of his life at Manchester City
Because he of all people, who was mainly at home in the defensive midfield in the course of his career, slipped into a much more offensive role than before after the turn of the year. David Silva had left the club, former regular strikers like Agüero were sometimes out for a long time, Sterling was not in the form of previous years. So Gündogan stepped into the breach, in a versatile offensive role – sometimes as a half-left offensive, sometimes as a playmaker, even as a false nine Guardiola offered him on.
Gündogan paid back – during the most productive phase of his career: from the beginning of January to mid-February, he scored an impressive nine goals in nine games in the league, including three braces against West Brom, Liverpool and Tottenham. City then said hello from the top of the table – and Gündogan was voted Premier League Player of the Month twice in a row in January and February.
Even if he couldn’t keep up this pace: Gündogan is part of Pep Guardiola’s star collective. He plays his role in the counter-pressing swarm excellently, Pep appreciates his skills in the combination game and his serenity on the ball. “I am pleased that he is now finally being properly recognized because he scores and prepares goals,” said the manager in April, and Gündogan explained to the leading player: “He doesn’t just think of himself, he thinks of the team.”
Gündogan himself was almost uncomfortable with the attention after scoring. “Of course my stats are better than ever,” he admitted Sky Sports to, “but that doesn’t mean that I play better – and it doesn’t make me happier either. I always analyze my game very carefully, and it doesn’t matter whether I collect scorer points.”
In the final against Chelsea, his experience will be particularly important: he was the only player in the squad to have made it to the premier class final, and in Borussia Dortmund’s 2-1 defeat against FC Bayern Munich in 2013, he equalized with a penalty. “Honestly, this final is still haunting me,” he recently admitted. “I want this trophy so badly”