For his teammates and national coach Julian Nagelsmann, the matter is clear: İlkay Gündoğan is one of the best German football players and one of the pillars of the national team. The 33-year-old led Manchester City’s all-star set to historic treble success last season and was subsequently voted 2023 Player of the Year by the press.
Gündogan: Someone “who never screams”
Gündoğan, now under contract with FC Barcelona, was also promoted to captain of the DFB team. First Hansi Flick and now Julian Nagelsmann are fully committed to the midfield tactician, who made the leap to professional football at 1. FC Nürnberg in 2009. Nagelsmann described the former Nuremberg and Dortmund player as someone “who never shouts.”
Even though he was not a speaker, Gündoğan was very controversial in German football for many years – especially because of non-sporting events. The photo scandal with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan dominated public opinion around Gündoğan for a long time. Now there is a test match against Turkey on Saturday (8:45 pm – live on BR24Sport radio report), which will be the first time that Gündoğan will face his parents’ home country.
Turkey game at the Olympic Stadium “special game”
“He is an experienced player, he knows that. He played against Turkish clubs in the Champions League with Borussia Dortmund, Manchester City and FC Barcelona,” said DFB sporting director Rudi Völler in an exclusive interview with BR24Sport. Strictly speaking, Gündoğan only met Galatasaray with BVB in 2014/15; he described these encounters at the time as “sentimental.”
The duel at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium will probably be a little bigger. “It’s a special game for him, especially for his family,” said Völler: “The stadium will probably be full and there will also be a lot of Turkish friends in the stadium.” The visit of Turkish President Erdoğan, who meets with Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin this weekend, can also be watched from the stands. A delicate scenario in politically charged times.
Erdoğan’s photo as DFB’s low point for Gündoğan
Gündoğan and Mesut Özil were photographed with the same Erdoğan in a personal meeting in May 2018. The Turkish ruler was on an election campaign at the time, which is why a heated debate broke out in Germany about German-Turkish national actors. A meeting with Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier followed and the lowest point in Gündoğan’s DFB career.
Although the then City player (unlike Özil) publicly declared himself, he was mercilessly booed in June 2018 during the preparatory games for the World Cup in Russia. It is said that he was very close to Gündoğan and his car window was also destroyed. After elimination in the preliminary round in Russia, Özil in particular was declared a bogeyman, also because Gündoğan only played 60 minutes.
What distinguishes Gündoğan from Özil
While Özil ended his DFB career and accused the federation and German society of double standards and racism, things remained calm around Gündoğan. He was already Germany’s captain in March 2019, when he took over the armband from Manuel Neuer at half-time in the international match against Serbia.
Six months later, the excitement happened again: Gündoğan liked a controversial post by his former teammate Cenk Tosun. In the photo, the Turkish national team players performed a controversial military salute. A little later, he “consciously” removed it. “Believe me: after last year, the last thing I wanted to do was make a political statement,” Gündoğan said.
Promotion to DFB leader in the European Championship at home
Following their elimination in the round of 16 at the 2020 European Championship and the World Cup disaster in Qatar, Gündoğan left his DFB future open but decided to continue playing for Germany. Thanks to his success as captain of Manchester City, he also became the leader of the German national team. First Gündoğan was the representative of the injured Manuel Neuer, now Nagelsmann has made him the undisputed leader of the European Championships at home next summer.
So Gündoğan has the chance to finally transform his positive image among the German public. A successful European Championship in his own country would give the Gelsenkirchen native the recognition he has enjoyed abroad for years.