Lionel Messi might not be returning to Barcelona but the Catalan giants have still managed to snare one of the world’s best players in the summer transfer window on a free transfer.
Ilkay Gundogan was a leading force for Manchester City during their treble charge at the backend of the campaign as talk over his expiring contract increased.
The midfielder ended the campaign with eight goals and four assists in the Premier League and netted twice in the FA Cup final victory over Manchester United. However, he has now decided to call it quits after nine seasons in England and has agreed a three-year contract with Barça with the option of an extra season.
He arrives as manager Xavi attempts to reshape his 2022/23 La Liga title winning squad in a summer which has already seen stalwarts Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba depart.
Here’s how Gundogan may fit into the Blaugrana’s starting lineup next season.
Among Gundogan’s great strengths towards the end of the season was his versatility. He could drop into the pivot in front of City’s back three or partner Kevin De Bruyne in attacking midfield and look equally impressive in either role.
He predominantly plays on left side of midfield, a position Frenkie de Jong dominated for Barça with Busquets occupying his usual central role.
A new defensive midfielder is expected to be brought in to fill the void left by Busquets. Barça are readying a contract offer for Inter and Croatia star Marcelo Brozovic, while Joshua Kimmich has also been mentioned as a potential target.
Pedri – De Jong – Gundogan
Gavi – De Jong – Gundogan
Pedri – Brozovic – Gundogan
Pedri – Kimmich – Gundogan
Nothing is guaranteed when it comes to Barcelona transfers and finances.
If they don’t get that coveted Busquets replacement, a new approach may have to be implemented to compensate defensively in front of the back four.
Gundogan can still offer his attacking threat in a midfield pivot and managed 30 tackles in the Premier League last season – nowhere near a division high but, considering City kept on average 65.2% possession per game, still a decent return.
Neither Gundogan nor De Jong are crunching tacklers. De Jong definitely prefers to pick off interceptions and can overreach when agitated out of possession, but the pair would offer a dreamy partnership which could maximise Barça’s ball-playing capabilities.
It would also allow Pedri to play in a more attacking role, either as an outright number ten or a more advanced right-sided player.
De Jong – Gundogan / Pedri
De Jong – Gundogan / Gavi
There’ll be a reunion between old Borussia Dortmund pals when Gundogan touches down in Catalonia.
The midfielder played alongside Robert Lewandowski 77 times for BVB and Xavi might be hoping some old school chemistry between the pair can improve Barça’s attacking output. Their return of 70 goals was the lowest of any top five league winner in Europe.
Lewandowski accounted for 23 of those as the Poland international claimed the Pichichi award but Barça will undoubtedly hope Gundogan can contribute in front of goal more so than Xavi’s other attacking options did in 2022/23.
A late season spurt saw Ansu Fati match Raphinha on seven as Barça’s joint-second top scorers in the league.
De Jong – Pedri / Gundogan
De Jong – Gavi / Gundogan