Who could it be, though? Rodrigo? Grealish? De Bruyne? No, it’s not quite as scintillating as all of that, but there’s an outside chance that we could see our braintrust make a move for İlkay Gündoğan, who’ll be out of contract this summer and has recently made a very compelling case for his continued usefulness to a title contender (if not more). The 32 year old German has been in and out of Man City’s lineup. Could Arteta once again work his Man City magic?
Barcelona are also rumoured to be interested because, well, what else is new? However, one can’t overlook the Manchester-to-London pipeline that Arteta has opened up. Having prised away younger, more-vital assets in the form of Jesus and Zinchenko, is it too much to imagine that he could lure Gündoğan away from Guardiola? If we’re to part with Granit Xhaka, we could do worse than to bring in another #8 with Gündoğan’s pedigree.
Available on a free transfer, one might expect his weekly wages to exceed the £140k he’s currently on. However, considering our need for battle-tested, trench-comfortable experience, it might be worth offering him a pay rise, all the more so when we consider that the alternative is splurging £80m or more on Rice and Caicedo, plus the wages they’d demand. Gündoğan, at his age, wouldn’t rule out a move for both players, but he might be valuable in other ways.
For example, there’s been growing noise around Rice going to Bayern. Fine. Dandy. There’s similar noise around Xhaka going to Bayern as well. If we play our cards right, and this is a very Scylla & Charybdis threading of a needle, we could leverage our interest in Gündoğan to drive Rice’s fee downward while also driving Xhaka’s fee upward. That would be a delicate dance but one that Arteta and Edu just might be able to deliver.
If we could bring Gündoğan in on a free transfer, we could count that as £80m or more that we could then spend to reinforce other positions. Think of it: Xhaka leaves to join one Bayern or another. We sign one of Rice or Caicedo (I prefer Caicedo; more on that on another day…). We also sign Gündoğan. Instead of spending £150m on transfer fees plus wages on top of that, we’ve spent half, leaving us quite a lot more to spend on an Osimhein or a Maddison or a Tielemans.
It’s not all that far-fetched. Having secured the services of Martinelli and Saka in recent weeks, other players from further afield with be more willing to trust the process. We could do worse than signing Gündoğan on a short-term contract, maybe two years, so that he could deliver in those high-pressure moments (did you see his goals against Man U in the FA Cup?) but also that he could offer some leadership to a young squad when it falters.
Man City still have a Champions League title to pursue, so we probably won’t be hearing anything all that dramatic around Gündoğan’s future until after that. Perhaps winning a treble might convince Gündoğan to consider the rewards of elevating a squad towards trophies as being superior to confirming a pre-determined outcome? Speaking only for myself, I wouldn’t object…