Ilkay Gundogan is a player that was sought after by some of the biggest clubs in world football a few years ago. The young German had everything – aggression, determination, explosiveness and a great sense of positional awareness. These skills were crucial in Borussia Dortmund’s battle to topple Bayern Munich from the summit of German football.
It was Gundogan’s second season for Dortmund, in particular, that really announced him to the football world. Despite not boasting huge numbers compared to other players of his mould, Gundogan was quietly fantastic at what he did. His dynamism, eye for a pass and technical ability from midfield made him a real asset for Dortmund.
As well as his attacking play, Gundogan also did a job at the other end of the pitch. Teams would often be left frustrated having been unable to break down a very resolute Dortmund defence, thanks in part to the steel provided by the German international.
It wasn’t just domestically that Gundogan impressed either. Operating as a midfield engine in Jurgen Klopp’s then dazzling side, Gundogan was integral to the Dortmund team of 2012/13 that reached the Champions League final. The German contributed some masterful performances against the likes of Real Madrid along the way and some of the world’s best clubs ended up taking notice.
Fast-forward a couple of years, and a severe back injury seemed to have hampered his progression. Some supporters believe question marks now hover over the Gelsenkirchen-born midfielder’s fitness and whether or not he could ever return to his best.
Manchester United fans will be keen to avoid bringing in another injury plagued midfielder, particularly with Owen Hargreave’s frustrating spell at the club fresh in the mind. Man United chief executive Ed Woodward will not want to splash upwards of €20m on a player who may spend more time on the physio’s table than on the pitch.
However, at 24-years-old, Gundogan still has his best years ahead of him. With a full pre-season and some careful planning, Louis van Gaal will hope that he can regain his old form and take the Premier League by storm.
If the German really is over the worst of his injury, United fans have every reason to be excited about his potential signing. Cut from the same cloth as players such as Ander Herrera, Gundogan, at his best, can be considered to be one of the very best in his position.
If the rumours are true and a deal has been agreed between the two parties, United have acquired one of the best midfielders in the game today. It is now up to van Gaal to get him back to the level we all know he can perform at.