Barcelona finds key stability in Ilkay Gündogan

Ilkay Gundogan / Getty Images
Ilkay Gundogan / Getty Images

İlkay Gündoğan is an invaluable player for Xavi and Barcelona, both on and off the pitch.

The 2023-2024 Barcelona team wouldn’t be the same without Ilkay Gündogan. While not displaying the same solemn class as during his time at Manchester City, the German midfielder is Xavi’s main sporting and morale support. The Barça coach brought in a player of supreme quality who has managed to hold the team together in the most delicate moments and assert his leadership in the locker room without being captain or causing a stir. Only once did he raise his voice in front of the cameras, seeking a reaction from his teammates after a defeat.

Seeing the media impact, he chose to keep a low profile. It’s not surprising, then, that he has played a role, either as a starter or substitute, in all 39 games this season: the 27 LaLiga matches, the 7 in the Champions League, the 3 in the Copa del Rey, and the pair in the Spanish Super Cup. He started in 33 of them and came off the bench in only 6: one in the Champions League, two in the Copa, and three more in La Liga. That’s 3,108 minutes out of a possible 3,570, including two periods of extra time. He hasn’t missed a single game due to rest, suspension, or injury. He has scored 5 goals and provided 10 assists.

According to Gabriel Sans of Mundo Deportivo the club emphasizes the importance of having a player of his caliber. On a sporting level, he adapts to all the positions Xavi asks of him, whether it’s covering the midfield left by Oriol Romeu, the double pivot in a new system with Cuadrado, or the two interiors and on a morale level, he tries to contribute his experience in a locker room increasingly filled with homegrown players. The youngsters, they explain at Camp Nou, hold him in high esteem.

Gündogan answered Barcelona’s call because of Xavi. He signed after chatting with the coach on a couple of occasions. The admiration he holds for Xavi is total and he didn’t take long to convince him. The international is liked because he has shown maximum commitment to the club, never sparing effort or support in very critical situations, such as when the infirmary gathered up to eight injured players.

“He’s humble, not a star, and a team player,” say those who have dealt with him in this first season. “Because of his attitude, he’s an indispensable guy,” they add. He’s always there for what the group needs. He doesn’t hesitate to lead the way. Captain of Germany, captain at City, they recall in the upper echelons, and captain without title at Barcelona.