Ilkay Gundogan wrote his name into Manchester City folklore when he came off the bench to score a quick-fire brace that handed City a fourth Premier League title in five years. The team was struggling against Aston Villa in the last game of the campaign. Only a win could prevent Liverpool from wresting the title out of City’s grasp as the club faithful watched bewildered.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man as Gundogan entered the fray to do what the best captains and leaders do - save the day. It was a statement performance that seemed to pose questions to Pep Guardiola regarding why he was left out of the starting XI in the first place.
Widely recognised as Pep Guardiola’s first signing after taking the reins at Manchester City, the German international has been impeccable throughout his time at the club. Although initially hindered by injuries he has since been one of City’s best players season after season.
With top notch tactical awareness, impeccable close control, passing and dribbling ability with an eye for goals, he is the complete midfielder. Guardiola’s appreciation of his talent and ability even though he was on the opposing team playing for Borussia Dortmund against Bayern Munich led to his signing immediately the Catalan boss arrived England.
Since moving to the Etihad Stadium, he has been central to the team’s success in the last several seasons and ranks as one of Guardiola’s favourite players. With his experience and demeanor, it was only fitting for him to inherit the armband after Fernandinho left the club.
His running one year contract was renewed last season. But with the season set to end in a few months, both parties have not reached an agreement for another extension. That means the midfielder is headed for the exit door at the end of the campaign. But will letting him go at this point be the best decision for City?
Gundogan may not be the young and energetic player he was seven years ago when he joined Manchester City from Borussia Dortmund, but he is certainly still one of the best midfielders in Europe at the moment. What he has lost to youthfulness, he has gained in experience.
He may not be having his best season in a City shirt, but three goals and same number of assists in 20 Premier League starts is not a bad return for a midfielder. At 32, he still has at least two more years to perform at the top level. Why not spend them at City?
Surely, his presence in the dressing room will be invaluable to younger players. Also in the process of getting his coaching badges he will be thinking more like a player-coach at this point. With City in need of experience especially when it comes to European nights, having some leaders in the dressing room in crucial games will always benefit the team.
The only obstacle to the renewal from the player’s side will be if he insists on playing regularly. That’s something Guardiola cannot guarantee any player in the squad. In that regard he may be better off leaving than becoming a disgruntled member of the squad.
Other than that, there is no good reason why Manchester City should allow Gundogan to leave for free in the summer.