*This post is one writers opinion. It is not substantiated by sources.
Of the many problems with transfer speculation in February, perhaps none is more notable than the fact that it’s occurring in February. The winter window ahs just slammed shut, and it’s the time of year when the nights are long and filled with terrors – at least for football writers. Between the relative tedium that is pre-match write-ups and post-match analysis of the matches that’re flying fast and furious, there is little to write about that galvanizes the minds of arms chair Directors of Football and Football Manager aficionados. And so we latch onto whatever bits of transfer gossip we can, from whatever rag it is that decides to print it. We’ve all been guilty of it from time to time, myself included.
But let me put one item to rest: Ilkay Gündoğan isn’t going anywhere.
Do I have any sources to back me up? Not one.
Has the player said he’s definitively staying? He has not.
But has he at least hinted that he’s staying? Not that I’m aware of.
Have I heard that a new contract is nearly signed? Nope.
And yet, at least as of May the 2nd, I remain utterly unmoved about the status Gündoğan 2019: I expect he’ll be pulling on the City Blue in mid-August as the new season kicks off.
Why am I so confident? Because a move away makes precious little sense.
The leading argument in the speculation that Gündoğan could be a wantaway is that he was disgruntled about not receiving enough minutes, and therein lies the problem with mid-winter transfer speculation: there’s still so much season to be played. Here we stand with three matches to play and he’s tallied a combined 2,545 Premier League and Champions League minutes, with a further 545 in domestic cup competitions for a total of 3,090 first team minutes played. Sure, that’s 800 fewer than Paul Pogba, but it’s also a full 1,200 more than Naby Keïta, and effectively exactly as many as someone like Marcelo Brozovic (~3,200) of Inter, who’ve been rumored to be interested in his services.
That half of those minutes (1,578) have come since the calendar turned over to February should matter precious little in the grand scheme. Nor should the potential arrival of a long-term Fernandinho replacement, as whoever the new sheriff of defensive midfield is will almost certainly still need a deputy.
No, he’s not a nailed on starter in the way that the midfield trio of Fernandinho, David Silva, and Kevin de Bruyne have been (when fit) but it hasn’t mattered. That’s partially down to the injuries that the aforementioned trio have suffered this year, but it’s also simply down to the fact that City play the better part of sixty matches per year, and when you’re playing every three or four days for months on end, opportunities inevitably arise. The players around you get hurt, they become fatigued, or they lose form.
Perhaps no one should know this better than Gündoğan himself, as he has been the victim of more than one of those maladies in his time with City, struggling for either form or fitness on multiple occasions.
Should Gündoğan be made available – or make himself available – he’d certainly have no lack of suitors. While he’s never reached the heights he showed during his time with Dortmund, he’s proven himself to be a flexible, if not entirely dependable arrow in Pep Guardiola’s quiver, adapting to the needs of his manager. His ability to seamlessly adapt to the demands of sitting deep and picking out clever little chip passes over stubborn ten man defenses, or to play further forward make him an invaluable asset.
While many may not remember, immediately after signing it was Gündoğan, not Fernandinho who got the bulk of the minutes as the club’s starting defensive midfielder. It wasn’t until after Gündoğan injured himself during Pep’s inaugural campaign that Fernandinho made the position his own. Clearly he has the trust of the man who made him his very first signing.
However, even if suitors arrived for his services, how many would be willing (or able) to meet City’s asking price? Purchased for approximately £20m during the summer of 2016, the man we call Silkay has done nothing to diminish himself in value and, if anything, has raised the price that could be expected of him somewhat, with City conservatively being able to ask for around £30m. That price tag should make him available to second tier clubs, but his wages could make his acquisition a challenge for a great number of those teams, and of those remaining, few could offer him the guaranteed minutes he is claimed to want, with the promise Champions League football.
Should Gündoğan want away badly enough that he’d be willing to sacrifice title opportunities, and/or salary then sure, perhaps there’s a move out there. But as it stands, it seems far more likely than not that Gündoğan is relatively pleased with his 3,000+ minutes, fat salary, and status as midfield supersub on one of the six best teams in Europe, playing for the best manager on the continent. Were I a betting man I’d wager heavily on City presenting Gündoğan with a lucrative new deal that rewards him for his fine play, positional flexibility, and willingness to play a necessary, if unglamorous role.
Gündoğan on the move? Doubtful.
*Do I like asking myself leading questions in my writing? Why yes, I do.
**Salary, minutes, and transfer fee data from TransferMarkt.com
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