Barcelona players have rallied around Ilkay Gundogan after outburst
Ilkay Gundogan’s Clasico outburst has been a wake-up call for Barcelona… and Catalan giants need to embrace his spirit and drive if they are push on from last season’s title success
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Ilkay Gundogan set very high standards at Manchester City and the club responded in kind. After his first Clasico ended on Saturday with him scoring but finishing on the losing the side, the first whispers of discontent at Barcelona were heard from the German World Cup winner.
He wasn’t happy with the way the club welcomed him and his wife Sara Arfaoui said Diario Sport, and he was not happy with the way the team accepted defeat against Real Madrid, according to the man himself in a very frank post-match interview.
The first claim has since been denied by his wife on social media. The second, could have provoked one of two reactions at the club and in the Barcelona dressing room.
For all that his comments, that he wanted to see more anger after the loss, were welcomed by fans and Catalan media, there was a chance players could have reacted badly, feeling it was something he could have said inside the camp and not in front of the cameras. The club might also have wanted a different line taken after the first defeat of the season.
But instead players have rallied round the massively experienced midfielder using his moan as a clarion call to take them forward into the rest of the season. The club would love to build around Gundogan’s winning mentality with Joshua Kimmich the player they would be happy to bring in to play alongside him in midfield.
Ilkay Gundogan was dejected after the El Clasico defeat and suggested his team-mates were not hurt enough
Wednesday was the day when things were clarified regards both what Gundogan thinks of the way the club have treated him, and the way his comments about the team have landed.
Gundogan’s wife used her Instagram account to make it clear what she thought of the claims the club left the couple feeling ‘abandoned’ in the first few weeks of Ilkay’s time there.
‘Completely false,’ she said. ‘We are very happy and have the support of the club and the coaching staff. I would love to know where this news comes from. We love the people, the club, the city, everything.’
The fact that Gundogan lives in the centre of Barcelona and not in the gated high-security residences of the suburbs where so many of his team-mates choose to stay certainly suggests the couple are happy. He feels if he dons a cap and sunglasses he can move around his neighbourhood without drawing too much attention to himself and that is exactly what he prefers over the sheltered existence of a player on a ‘multi-millionaire’s row’ far from the noise of the fans.
Mail Sport understands that any discontent shown when he first arrived will have been no more than the usual tension of changing countries.
He was in a hotel for the first couple of weeks, and he was not able to play at first because Barcelona had their now customary problems getting everyone registered with LaLiga.
So to his potentially incendiary comments post game. A salvo directed at those who didn’t seem too upset about defeat to Real Madrid.
‘I didn’t come here to lose this type of game,’ he said in a television interview while tempers were still running high … at least his, because his point was certain other players seemed less bothered.
The club have reportedly apologised to Gundogan after he complained about his treatment (Gundogan is pictured here with club president Joan Laporta)
In Wednesday’s training session – the first with everyone training together since the 2-1 defeat – Xavi spoke to the players as a group and while it appears Gundogan’s comments were not addressed directly, the question of how the club deals with these big games and their aftermath was.
Almost to a man there is an acceptance that the former City midfielder was right. It should hurt that three points were dropped against such a big rival.
Gundogan was not specific about who his comments were directed out. One suggestion is that the mere sight of players on their phones and discussing dinner arrangements were what had riled the German international.
He did not want sackcloth, ashes and hand wringing but he was stunned to see some players brushing the game to one side.
Again there is no confirmation of which players but there are suggestions Barça’s stellar loanees Joao Felix and Joao Cancelo and not the younger players such as Gavi and Fermin Lopez who were culpable.
Barcelona need the spirit of Gundogan if they are to push on from their title win last season and start making a noise in Europe once more (the noise of progress not the crash bang wallop of them going out at the group stage).
He has been backed more than ever now to help lead the move back up the table – they are now fourth, and the charge into the knockout rounds in Europe.
Gundogan and Sara Arfaouimarried last year but felt ‘abandoned’ by the club when settling into a new place
If Kimmich can be brought into help him then that will be seen as a massive positive.
Another conclusion from the Clasico is that Oriol Romeu is not going to be enough for Barcelona to compete in big games. It’s little surprise that a player who the club sold as a youngster is not going to entirely convince at the other end of his career. He has had a good career but at Southampton and Girona and in the games that will decide seasons Barcelona believe they must look elsewhere. Kimmich has a contract until 2025 but Thomas Tuchel would not stand in the way of his departure if it were right for Bayern and Xavi is a massive fan.
Money will be the problem so the Barcelona coach is not getting too excited. Until such time as a top-class reinforcement arrives he will be left with a fit-again Frenkie de Jong and youngsters Gavi, Pedri and Fermin.
Plus Gundogan, who has been given the green light by everyone at the club to go on setting the necessary standards and publicly complaining when they are not met.
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