Ilkay Gunodgan claims he would “be crazy” not to consider a career in football management after his time spent under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.
After spending five years at Borussia Dortmund, Gundogan made the switch from Germany to England in 2016 to join Manchester City. Since his move to the Etihad, the German has made nearly 300 appearances for City, becoming a cult hero and scoring the goal that ultimately won City the Premier League title in 2022.
In his seven years under Guardiola‘s guidance, Gundogan has played every role in midfield from the deep playmaker to the second striker, particularly in the 2020/21 season where he notched 13 goals in the Premier League. And, in a recent video with Goal, the 32-year-old used football simulation game Football Manager 2023 to discuss his career so far, and what to expect in the future.
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In the video on the Goal YouTube channel, Gundogan starts off by discussing the first time he appeared in a Football Manager title, with the German included in FM09 during a spell with Nurnberg. “Once, one of my coaches said to me that I’m the type of player that is not really starring in a game, but is able to make all the players around me better,” said Gundogan.
“That’s a quote that I really like, actually, but it’s also quite fitting. And I always was and am a player who puts the team first when I play, I always try to put my teammates in with a pass, with dribbling, with anticipation, I try to make life as easy as possible for them.”
After his time with Nurnberg, Gundogan made the switch to Dortmund, where he linked up with Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp. Gundogan spent two years under Klopp’s guidance, and he was full of praise for his former manager, with the midfielder’s determination in FM12 increasing from five out of 20 to 14 out of 20 whilst working with the Liverpool boss.
“I think the biggest change probably was the Jurgen Klopp school, with that Borussia Dortmund team we had. The intensity we always used to play, the pressing, I think that’s not really possible without the determination and me obviously fitting in into that team better and better with time.”
At the start of the 2013/14 season, Gundogan suffered a serious back injury that kept him out of action for a year, one which Gundogan himself worried would stop him from playing football again. He returned to action after his injury and managed to fit back into Dortmund’s set-up with ease, but the German admitted it was a really tough time.
“The back injury was quite serious, least for me, mentally, I really struggled in that period. I felt like no one really knows at least 100% what was causing my pain, and no one could really show me what I have to do to get better.
“That just created fear in my person because I was already out probably 2,3,4 months, and you visit several doctors, no one can really explain to you what’s the cause, where it comes from, and then being out a total of 14 months. On top of that. I missed the World Cup in 2014, the year Germany won the World Cup, so being able just to watch the World Cup in Brazil from the hospital beds, you can all imagine what it felt like.”
After returning from his injury, Gundogan joined City in 2016, arriving at the club in the same transfer window as Guardiola. The German missed a lot of his first season at City through injury, but says his time watching from the sidelines proved vital.
“I was able to watch from the stands and get a better idea of how he [Guardiola] wants his team to play. I knew him from Germany, playing against him with Borussia Dortmund against Bayern Munich.
“I loved watching his Barcelona team back in the day, that midfield of Busquets, Xavi and Iniesta, that was probably my favourite midfield of all time. The quality of playing short passes in the middle and then in the right moments to convert the game into the wide areas or to attack, that was something I was, as a midfielder myself, that I was really admiring.
“For me, it was just exciting to get the opportunity to play for Pep and to play here in the toughest league, worldwide, with Man City. Also to compete for the titles, and that was, as you can imagine, an incredible opportunity for me.”
Gundogan has spoken in the past about his desire to enter management after retiring, and he’s recently started to complete his coaching badges in preparation. After being coached by some of the best managers in world football, the German thinks it would be stupid not to give management a go.
“I think I would be crazy if I at least would not consider it having been managed by the best managers, probably worldwide at the moment. I consider Pep, Jurgen Klopp, Thomas Tuchel, these three [as the best], I think it’s just natural, you know, to at least make my badges, get a little bit of experience and get a taste for it and see if it’s something for me.
“Believe it or not, I truly believe that a game like Football Manager helps because it has so many facets of the game, it has so many levels in terms of managing, not just the team but a whole club. Probably that’s also the reason why I’m enjoying playing that game because it feels so realistic.”