Insights from The Athletic.
One transfer saga less. Ilkay Gundogan was a free agent, and clubs like Barcelona, City, Arsenal, Al-Ittihad, and others were interested in signing him. Now, the midfielder has made his choice, opting for the champions of Spain.
Why did Gundogan leave City?
The Athletic published an article with insights into the situation with the midfielder. Among other things, the publication revealed Guardiola's interest in the midfielder. On April 1st, City defeated Liverpool 4-1 (with Gundogan scoring one of the goals), and the next day, the coach met with friends at the Musu Japanese restaurant in the center of Manchester. At that time, the topic of the German's contract was constantly being discussed.
"Now Gundogan is too important for us. We can't let him go," Guardiola said. Two months later, the player's contract expired, and shortly after, he ended up in Barcelona. The management of one of the richest clubs in the world couldn't retain the player the coach needed.
Initially, City offered Gundogan a one-year contract with an option to extend for another season. However, the midfielder's salary would have been lower than in previous seasons. Guardiola convinced the club that a new offer should be made. The final recommendation from City was €12 million per season, slightly more than the player's existing salary at that time. However, City did not agree to the timeframe - they were still discussing a one-year contract with an option to extend.
Why did Gundogan choose Spain specifically?
Meanwhile, Barcelona failed to organize Messi's return and decided that Gundogan would be the priority in the transfer market. They saw the German as the primary target regarding football qualities and the deal format, which did not involve paying another club. The Catalans had been interested in the midfielder for a long time, and after the Champions League final, they made another offer - not €7 million but €9 million per year.
This was less than what City offered, but in terms of the contract duration, the player got what he wanted. The agreement is for two years, with a high probability of extension for a third season. According to information from The Athletic, Gundogan only needs to play in more than 60% of Barcelona's matches in the second season to have his contract extended for a third year. This is important for the midfielder, who will turn 33 in October.
According to Spanish journalist Javi Miguel, Gundogan's wife's opinion also mattered in addition to the contract term. She clarified to her husband that she wanted to live in Catalonia, not England or Saudi Arabia. It is reported that even Lewandowski, with whom they have been acquainted since their time at Borussia Dortmund, tried to persuade the midfielder to move. However, Barcelona has difficulties registering players, but the German has protected himself. According to the contract, Gundogan can leave for free if he is not written before the first match of La Liga.
Now the main question is how Gundogan will fit into Barcelona's lineup. On the one hand, such a player will be helpful for any team. On the other hand, for the first time in 15 years, we will see Barcelona without Busquets. And that's what people are talking about primarily.
Busquets had unique qualities and a vital role in the team (both in possession and without the ball). It seems that Gundogan will not be a direct replacement — Busquets' functions will be distributed among players like de Jong, Pedri, Gavi, and Gundogan himself. It was reported that even before the German's transfer, Xavi called him multiple times and informed him of the exact position he sees him in the team.