Treble winning captain İlkay Gündoğan leaves Manchester City for Barcelona

Manchester City have confirmed their inspirational captain İlkay Gündoğan has joined Barcelona on a free transfer. The midfielder has been given a two-year deal by the Spanish Champions, with the option to extend for another year.

City said they had offered Gündoğan a new contract, but after seven years with the club where he has won multiple trophies, he had opted for a new challenge.

In his farewell message, the 32-year-old German Turk thanked the club and fans, stating that it had been a “total privilege and pleasure” to play for Manchester City.

“Manchester has been my home and I have felt part of a very special family at City,” he said.

Gündoğan was manager Pep Guardiola’s first signing for Man City, joining the Sky Blues from Borussia Dortmund for a reported fee of £20m in 2016.

The German international has gone on to make 304 appearances for the club, scoring 60 goals, and winning 14 major trophies with them: five Premier League titles, one Champions League, two FA Cups, four Carabao/ELF Cups and two FA Community Shields.

Elected captain by the first team players for the 2022-23 season, Gündoğan has been immense for City, playing 51 games and scoring 11 goals, leading them to their historic Treble of the FA Cup, and Premier League and Champions League titles.

The only other British club to have achieved this feat was Manchester United under the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson back in 1998-99.

Reflecting on his time with City, Gündoğan said he had experienced “hundreds of unforgettable moments” and described captaining the side to the Treble as the “greatest experience” of his career.

Gündoğan’s rise as a footballer

Gündoğan’s achievements at club level makes him one of the most successful footballers of Turkish origin of all time.

He was born in Gelsenkirchen, North Rhine-Westphalia. Both sides of his family are from the Dursunbey district of Balıkesir — a city in Marmara Province, western Turkiye.

Gündoğan showed early promise as a footballer and he had a spell with his local big club Schalke 04 when he was aged 8, but he was dropped by them as he was physically a slow developer.

He instead came through VfL Bochum’s youth academy and was signed by 2. Bundesliga club FC Nürnberg in 2009.

The talented midfielder shone in two big games against Bayern Munich, assisting a goal in one in Sept. 2009 and scoring his first goal for Nürnberg in the second in Feb. 2010.

It wasn’t long before other big clubs came knocking and in 2011, Gündoğan signed for Borussia Dortmund, helping Jurgen Klopp’s side to claim its second successive Bundesliga title and achieve the club’s first domestic double. His form also warranted a first senior cap for Germany against Belgium in October 2011.

Gündoğan’s stock continued to grow during his five years at Borussia Dortmund, before he made the move to the English Premier League, arriving at Man City at the same time as Pep Guardiola. He has been an integral part of the team, helping them to win multiple domestic trophies.

As well as spearheading Man City to win its first ever Treble, Gündoğan also secured a spot for himself in the record books. He scored City’s first goal in its 2-1 FA Cup victory over big local rivals Man United on 3 June 2023 after just 12 seconds, making it the fastest goal to be scored in the final of the FA Cup.

Paying tribute to Gündoğan as he exited for Barcelona, Man City director Txiki Begiristain highlighted the player’s “intelligence, leadership and commitment” to the club and how those qualities had been an “inspiration to everyone”.

“İlkay has truly cemented his place in the history of Manchester City and we all wish him well in the next chapter of his career,” added Begiristain.

Main image, top, of Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan celebrating after winning the FA Cup final between Manchester City and Manchester United at Wembley, 03 June 2023. Photo © ANDY RAIN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (13945855cz)