Ilkay Gündogan seals Premier League title but time at Manchester City could be up | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 12.05.2019
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Ilkay Gündogan seals Premier League title but time at Manchester City could be up

Ilkay Gündogan's brilliant late freekick put the gloss on Manchester City's retention of the Premier League ahead of Jürgen Klopp's Liverpool. But it could be the German midfielder's last game for the English club.

With 19 minutes of the Premier League season remaining, Manchester City were 3-1 up in Brighton and their second successive title was all but sealed. Seconds later, and with a sweep of Ilkay Gündogan's right boot, the celebrations could really start.

The German midfielder scored the fourth and final goal with a sumptuous, curling freekick that hammered the final nail in to Jürgen Klopp's title hopes, despite his Liverpool side beating Wolves 2-0 at Anfield.

City boss Pep Guardiola embraced his midfield metronome at the final whistle but Gündogan had retreated to the background by the time captain Vincent Kompany held the trophy aloft with Leroy Sane, an unused substitute on Sunday, stood next to the Belgian.

Creative control

As Guardiola's trust in Sane has waned this season, so his reliance on his other German has increased. Gündogan has started 13 of the 14 game winning streak that secured the title, playing 90 minutes in every match except the Manchester derby, when he was withdrawn on 89. By contrast, Sane has played over an hour in just three of those matches after a flying start to the season.

Gündogan, 28, was as central to the win on Sunday as he has been to City's late season form. Dictating play from deep with class and perception, he was successful with 94 percent of his passes, 100 percent of his tackles and showed why he was the first player Guardiola signed when he moved to Manchester.

"An incredible player in all senses," said the Spanish coach of the former Borussia Dortmund man in March. But with Gündogan soon to enter the last year of his contract, City may have be forced to find a replacement.

"Everyone feels different, maybe someone feels like a new challenge or to change something," Gündogan said earlier this year. "I am always open-minded for challenges. It's a personal situation. It's not obvious, but everyone has to make their own decision."

Decisions, decisions

Those comments came before the German's most sustained run in the City team. With veteran holding midfielder Fernandinho struggling with a series of injuries and a pool of gifted attacking midfielders, City have turned to Gündogan in a deeper lying role than the one he played when rising to prominence with Klopp at Dortmund.

Premier League: Liverpool FC v Wolverhampton Wanderers (picture-alliance)

Gündogan's City denied Jürgen Klopp a first trophy in English football

His impeccable distribution, calm presence and reading of the game have helped City break down a host of sides set up almost entirely to contain more easily than with Fernandinho's more defensive mindset. He's become a critical cog in the City wheel at the time when he needs to make a decision on his future.

Of course, that could not be a coincedence. City have such an embarrassment of riches that perhaps Guardiola can afford to keep players happy with runs of games at the right time, though the likes of Sane and John Stones would probably dispute that.

Gündogan has said he will make his decision at the end of the season, by which point City could have won an unprecedented domestic treble, with Guardiola saying that "if he doesn't want to stay he has to leave." 

If he does go, he won't be short of suitors, with a return to Dortmund among the mooted options. He also didn't pick a bad way to say goodbye.

 

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