Ilkay Gundogan reveals he was unable to say goodbye to Man City in person, instead informing Pep Guardiola he was joining Barcelona in an ’emotional’ phone call

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Ilkay Gundogan reveals he was unable to say goodbye to Man City in person, instead informing Pep Guardiola he was joining Barcelona in an ’emotional’ phone call

  • Ilkay Gundogan was Pep Guardiola’s first ever signing at Manchester City 
  • Pep Guardiola claimed that he was keen to keep hold of the German midfielder 
  • Listen to the latest episode of Mail Sport’s podcast It’s All Kicking Off 

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Ex-Manchester City captain Ilkay Gundogan has lifted the lid on his departure at the end of last season, admitting that he was unable to bid farewell to his former employers in person.   

The German midfielder departed the Etihad after lifting a historic Treble, having spent seven years at City as Pep Guardiola’s first ever signing at the club. 

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He was quickly snapped up by cash-strapped Barcelona on a free transfer, fending off interest from Arsenal, but there was a time when it looked likely he could stay on in Manchester. 

However, as Gundogan has since revealed, City were seemingly a touch too slow off the mark to beat the Blaugrana to the punch – with the captain unable to even say his farewells in person.

‘Unfortunately, I didn’t say goodbye in person because I only made the decision after the Champions League final, two days before the DFB game against Colombia,’ he told German newspaper Bild.

Ilkay Gundogan claimed that Manchester City left contract renewal talks until too late in the season

Ilkay Gundogan claimed that Manchester City left contract renewal talks until too late in the season

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The German midfielder joined Barcelona on a free transfer at the end of last season

The German midfielder joined Barcelona on a free transfer at the end of last season

‘That was probably the hardest phone call I’ve ever had in my life. The conversation was emotional, but Pep was also happy for me.

‘I switched to the club that was close to his heart and his childhood, so to speak – and as a fan he was very happy about that.

‘He also told me: If I need anything, I should contact him at any time. It was brilliant to experience Pep as a coach. This will help me a lot over the next few years.’

But although Gundogan was full of praise for his manager, he revealed that his former club left things too late to open up negotiations in earnest. 

The German’s contract was up at the end of the season, providing the Citizens with ample opportunity to open discussions, however he claims that negotiations were slow in the offing. 

‘City waited a relatively long time until the talks really intensified,’ he told German newspaper Bild.

‘If this had happened a little earlier, the situation would have been different. So in the end it was the perfect ending, it couldn’t have come at a better time. It was also my childhood dream to play for FC Barcelona.

‘I don’t want to go into the minute details, but it was quite late in the season. And when it comes to a Champions League quarter-final or semi-final, players want to concentrate purely on sport. I didn’t know what would happen next. I couldn’t plan anything.

Gundogan claimed that Pep Guardiola's 'appreciation' was always present throughout the process

Gundogan claimed that Pep Guardiola’s ‘appreciation’ was always present throughout the process

The 32-year-old left City after completing a historic Treble, lifting the Champions League as captain

The 32-year-old left City after completing a historic Treble, lifting the Champions League as captain

Only Kevin de Bruyne and Bernardo Silva have played more games under Guardiola

Only Kevin de Bruyne and Bernardo Silva have played more games under Guardiola

‘Pep’s appreciation was always there, but officially there was no movement from the club for a long time. Until May, there was little reason for me to want to change. The treble was of course a crowning achievement. But that couldn’t have been planned.’

As Gundogan alluded to, Guardiola has always been outspoken in his preference to retain his skipper, who had long been a star performer for the Citizens. 

Gundogan has played the third-most games under the Spanish manager of any player at 304 appearances. Only Kevin de Bruyne (317) and Bernardo Silva (310) have featured under him on more occasions than the German. 

Since joining Barcelona, Gundogan has drawn one and won three of his four games in LaLiga, assisting twice with Xavi’s side third behind Girona and leaders Real Madrid.  

IT’S ALL KICKING OFF! 

It’s All Kicking Off is an exciting new podcast from Mail Sport that promises a different take on Premier League football.

It is available on MailOnline, Mail+, YouTube, Apple Music and Spotify.

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