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Barça's new signing Ilkay Gündoğan is known for his skills on the pitch but the German international is equally at home fielding questions and discussing a multitude of topics. In his first interview with Club media, the midfielder touches on when he decided to join the blaugranes, where his favourite position is on the field and his hopes for the coming season.
How was your presentation as a Barça player? Was it how you expected?
I would say it was more or less what I expected. I saw some of the bits of Iñígo Martínez's presentation so I know what to expect. Nevertheless, it was still emotional: it's my first time here at the training ground. Being on the field, with the full kit on, with my family, seeing the facilities, it's an emotional day and I am very happy.
From the announcement of your signing to your arrival there were quite a few days in between. Were you looking forward to getting to know your new teammates?
Yes, of course. I couldn't wait and I already knew a few of them such as Marc (ter Stegen) from the national, Robert (Lewandowski) from our Borussia Dortmund days and Eric Garcia and Ferran Torres from Manchester City. As such, I am familiar with the team. Also, I used to watch the games and see each player's qualities. Nevertheless, meeting them for the first time in preseason makes me feel like it's the first day of school, it's all new...So, obviously, I'm a bit nervous but also something I am looking forward to.
I didn't make the decision 100% to join Barça until after the Champions League final.“ Ilkay Gündoğan
At which moment did you decide to sign for Barça? Before or after winning the Champions League?
Well, I didn't make the decision 100% until after the Champions League final. We had talks (with Barça) before that, my contract was coming to an end and there was a bit of uncertainty about my future. But I tried to leave that to one side because it was probably the most important game of my career, the Champions League final in Istanbul. I was really focused on the game and on winning. For that reason, I wanted to take my time and not take the decision before. Once the game was over and we won, you naturally start to think about your future and you decide.
Pep Guardiola was your coach for seven years and now Xavi takes over. Do you think you adapt quicker than a player coming from a different environment?
I don't know. But to be honest, I can imagine so. It's a similar school of thinking, a similar type of training. I guess the sessions will be similar to the the ones we had at Manchester City. At the end of the day, Barça play a similar style of football. I am here to adapt as quickly as I can because that's when you can really show what you are capable of doing and your performances improve on the field. I will use the few weeks we have before the first official game to get myself ready as best I can.
Currently Barça have a lot of young players in midfield such as Pedri, Gavi, even Frenkie de Jong...What’s your opinion of them?
I think each of them has done some incredible things and they can still bring a lot more. They have a lot of potential and they can become even better. I am really excited about being on the field with these players in particular. Maybe it's because I am a midfielder also and you have those type of players next to you. So, I think it is really important for the team, especially midfielders, to have a good connection and a good balance between them. I can't wait to share some great moments with them on the pitch, training, playing and winning.
In which position on the field do you feel most comfortable?
It's strange because, even in the past, from time to time it has changed. In particular in the last two year the role I have had has been more attacking, getting into the box more, scoring...that's really fun. I remember in particular one season when I played as a holding midfielder, a number '6', all on my own. The last 15,16,17 games in the same position and I enjoyed it, it was really great and we won the league by a point ahead of Liverpool. It was an incredible time in a totally different position So, I think it is a question of interpretation. I am comfortable playing in an attacking or more defensive role. I think it is more a question of what you do away from your position and where the coach needs you. I am ready to play wherever because in the past I have shown I can play in an attacking or defensive role.
Sergio Busquets is one of the most important reasons for the team's success in the past“ Ilkay Gündoğan
This will be the first season since the departure of Sergio Busquets in midfield. Do you think this will affect the team in any way?
Well, he was a great figure in recent years. He was, in my opinion, one of the most important reasons for the team's success in the past. Not only are we losing a great player but also a great character. I think, at times, you need time to take it all in, but it also gives chances for others to step up: someone like me from outside or someone who is already here and can become more important, not just as a player but with regards to their role in the team. So, I think that is something that will happen automatically, a process that often takes time but soon or later it will happen and we will see the results on the field.
Did you speak to Pep about Barça? In your time at Manchester City but before you said you were leaving.
We never talked about that. I mean he always talks about Barça but not just with me, with everyone, the press...with the best words possible to describe this place. He loves Barça a lot, it's his team, he is form here and he is Catalan. He is very proud of what he did here and what has happened since he left the Club. I know he still watches Barça a lot, maybe all the games and I am sure he will now that I am here. He is in love with this Club.
What are you hoping for this season? La Liga should be the priority, or the Champions League?
Well, both. The league is a competition based on consistency. You start to work on it when preseason starts. The league is a long process in which at times you can slip up, but you have to be in it consistently. Then, obviously, the Champions League. I know that this Club want to do well in Europe. Now they have me, someone who comes to the Club having just won the Champions League. Of course, I want to win more. The best thing would be repeat what happened last year in the league and do better in the Champions League. That is what we are aiming for, that is the objective. We will start to work on it from day one and I am sure that the potential is there, we just need to show it on the field.
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