Actions speak louder than words and Ilkay Gundogan’s actions have had the most glorious consequences for Manchester City.
Two goals at Wembley – including the fastest ever goal scored in an FA Cup Final – plus his quick fire brace against Aston Villa to clinch the 2022 Premier League title, illustrate how the City skipper leads by example, showing up on the really big occasions.
Pep Guardiola has always left it to his City players to pick their own captains. They’ve done a pretty good job so far, none more so than with the present incumbent.
When Captain Fantastic Vincent Kompany left as a Centurion and a Fourmidable, it was El Mago, David Silva who was ‘elected’. Whether that was partly based on sentiment – it was his tenth and final season in City Sky Blue is debatable – but he was both universally admired and respected.
He was succeeded by fiery Fernandinho who, as the elder statesman of the squad, led City to the first two of three consecutive PL winning campaigns, before electing to return to his Brazilian homeland at the age of 37.
As City looked to become Champions of England in 2022/23 it was ‘Silky Ilkay’ who was given the nod by his team mates and peers – undoubtedly the people best placed to make such an important selection.
Gundo had been Pep’s first signing back in the summer of 2016, despite the German international not having fully recovered from a serious injury. That in itself spoke volumes of Pep’s admiration and faith in a player who had been a formidable opponent, when playing for Borussia Dortmund against Guardiola’s Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga.
After an injury plagued debut season, ‘The Gun Dog’ has been an integral part of City’s trophy laden years since 2017, but not always the first name on the team sheet nor in the running for the Player of the Year Award, as voted for by the fans.
Of course that’s all changed in recent times.
The Etihad faithful adore him.
They see in him arguably the player with the most ‘football intelligence’ on the pitch, albeit Kevin De Bruyne is right up there for such recognition. Guardiola loves them both – it’s easy to see why.
Gundogan’s amazing opener after just 12 seconds against Manchester United was not only utterly exhilarating for all concerned, it was technically brilliant and suitably seismic, as the Blue half of Wembley erupted.
As the fans acknowledged their ‘Blue Leader’ on the field of play, Gundogan reciprocated, recognising the crucial role played by the team’s 12th man.
Reflecting on the 2-1 Cup Final victory and looking ahead to the Champions League Final against Inter Milan, he said:
“Our fans are going to be so important for us again this weekend, as they always are."
“You only have to look at Saturday’s match at Wembley to show you how vital they are to our performance.
“Our fans were amazing from start to finish. Hearing them sing ‘Blue Moon’ in the tunnel, the deafening atmosphere as we walked out onto the pitch to a sea of blue, the Poznan as we waited for the match to start on the pitch, it was incredible and, in my opinion, helped us score after 13 seconds.
“To score that early was an unbelievable feeling and it felt like a reward for how amazing our fans were. Now we need them again in Istanbul.
“From the moment we wait in the tunnel, as we line-up on the pitch and during the whole game, we need that positive noise again. We know our fans will be there for us and we will give everything to make them proud.”
The words that jump out from that are, ‘...we need that positive noise again.’
As City go for a historic Treble, the Captain is urging the 20,000 Blues inside the Ataturk Stadium to help inspire both him, and the rest of the team, with a wall of noise and energy.
By definition, such positivity requires a shift from the age old negativity and booing of UEFA’s pompous Champions League anthem.
Make no mistake I, along with tens of thousands of City fans, have booed my heart out for years at the din which symbolises the corruption and rank hypocrisy of UEFA.
When Pep arrived at the Etihad he couldn’t understand the hatred felt by City fans, for a competition he loved when he was at Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
After seven years of being on the receiving end of UEFA’s dirty tricks and pernicious pursuit of City, Guardiola ‘get’s it’.
He stands shoulder to shoulder with the fans, but he knows the ultimate revenge or statement – call it what you will – is to win UEFA’s glittering showpiece.
It’ll be City actions that speak loudest, but all of those privileged enough to be out in Turkey on Saturday night would all do well to heed the request of our ‘Kapitan Wunderbar’!
Let’s bin the booing, pump up the volume of City positivity, throw in a Poznan for good measure and bring that b@st@rd jug-eared trophy back to Manchester as Champions of Europe.
By David Walker
Twitter: @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu