Premier League • England
Barcelona are firming up their plans to poach Ilkay Gundogan from Manchester City, who have in turn sharpened their focus on two potential successors, according to a report.
Gundogan was Pep Guardiola’s first signing as Man City manager and retains an important role in their team to this day. Indeed, he took over as captain of the club after the departure of Fernandinho in the summer.
This season, Gundogan has played 25 times in all competitions. However, there is a risk that it could be his last campaign at the Etihad Stadium. After all, he is now into the final six months of his contract.
Signing Gundogan for free would be an appealing move for most clubs across Europe. As such, he has been generating plenty of interest in recent weeks.
One of his main suitors could be Barcelona, who have been the subject of several reports regarding Gundogan’s future already.
Now, the Daily Telegraph claims that Barcelona have developed a “serious interest” in Gundogan. They believe he would be a worthwhile addition on a free transfer.
The fact that he has excelled under ex-Barcelona boss Guardiola for City suggests he could make an impact at Camp Nou too, despite never playing in La Liga before.
Therefore, Barcelona are ready to step up their interest in the Germany international. Technically, they could speak to him now if they want about a contract for next season and beyond.
By moving to Barcelona from City, Gundogan could follow in the footsteps of the likes of Eric Garcia and Ferran Torres.
Alternatively, the 32-year-old could yet commit to a longer stay in Manchester via a new contract. Barcelona are aiming to convince him to change scenery, though.
And if Gundogan does leave City, the current Premier League champions will have to replace his technical and leadership qualities.
In terms of replenishing their midfield depth, they have two options to succeed Gundogan, according to the report.
Under consideration would be West Ham midfielder Declan Rice and his England colleague, Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham.
Rice is under contract with his current club until 2024, but there is a growing feeling he will leave this summer. Bellingham is also expected to take the next step of his career despite having a contract in Germany until 2025.
City would think about either of them, but only if a deal is on the right terms. Despite their financial power, they do not want to be held to ransom for top targets.
Therefore, much will depend on the asking prices of either club for the two targets in contention to take Gundogan’s place in the squad.
Bellingham might be more stylistically similar to Gundogan than Rice, who tends to occupy the deepest midfield position for West Ham and England. City already have Rodri as their holding midfielder.
But both Rice and Bellingham can be versatile options and have enough talent to progress and mature under a coach like Guardiola.
It is no surprise that City are interested in them. That said, after impressing with their net spend in the summer, it would be counter-productive to replace someone departing on a free with a player who could be as expensive as Rice or Bellingham.
Yet players of their potential are worth investing in. Hence, if it is the end of an era with Gundogan – and in fairness, Barcelona might be hard to turn down if Xavi has a major role in mind for him – then City seem to be looking in the right places for his replacement.
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Premier League • England