Barcelona seek signing of Man City star whom Xavi believes can undergo position change to replace legend

Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gundogan representing Manchester City

Manchester City are at risk of losing Ilkay Gundogan in 2023, when Barcelona will make an attempt to sign him, according to reports in Spain.

Gundogan was Pep Guardiola’s first signing as Manchester City manager back in 2016. After his arrival from Borussia Dortmund, it took the midfielder some time to get going due to injury. However, in recent years, he has cemented his importance to the Premier League champions.

His brace against Aston Villa on the final day of the 2021-22 season gifted Manchester City the Premier League crown. A few months later, he succeeded the departing Fernandinho as the club’s captain.

However, his stint as their on-pitch leader might only last for one season. Gundogan’s contract is due to expire in June, by which time Barcelona might have firmed up plans to tempt him away from the Etihad Stadium.

According to Diario Sport, Gundogan has been chosen by Barcelona boss Xavi as the target who can replace Sergio Busquets at Camp Nou.

Busquets is currently in a similar boat to Gundogan. He captains his current club, but is due to become a free agent at the end of the season.

Xavi shared a pitch with Busquets for many glorious years, so knows how important it will be for Barcelona to replace his former teammate if there is no contract renewal.

With that in mind, he has told club officials that Gundogan is the player they should be pursuing.

Guardiola still sees place for Man City captain

A transfer is unlikely to take place in January, but it could happen in the summer. If Gundogan does not want to stay at Man City, despite Guardiola’s willingness to give him a one-year extension, they will not stand in his way.

In turn, a new challenge could await in Barcelona. Not only would the experience of playing in La Liga be new to Gundogan, but shifting into Busquets’ position would require some tactical adjustment.

Gundogan has largely played as a number 8 for City, whereas Busquets has made a career out of sitting in front of the defence as a holding midfielder.

This season, Gundogan has only played three times as a defensive midfielder, compared to 17 outings in a more advanced position in the City engine room.

However, the report from Sport indicates that Xavi believes Gundogan is capable of making the transition into a deeper role. He has confidence in his technical intelligence and has also sought opinions from those closer to Manchester about his target’s off-field character.

It seems Gundogan is passing all the checks and is therefore in pole position to be targeted by Barcelona.

If he was to move there, he would be reuniting with former City teammates like Ferran Torres and Eric Garcia.

Position change could restrict Gundogan

However, would Barcelona be making the most of him? Gundogan’s best moments for City have seen him breaking into the final third and contributing to goals.

He hit double figures of goals in each of the past two seasons, playing a major part in both title wins.

Although at the age of 32, he may have to adjust his game, Gundogan should still have something to offer in the attacking phase – more than what Barcelona would need from a Busquets replacement.

But their preference for free transfers is another factor that will make the Germany international appealing to them.

Working under Guardiola will have equipped Gundogan with plenty of tactical knowledge. Hence, he does have the potential to become more of a defensive midfielder if that is what is required of him.

However, it would be a shame to see some of his best qualities restricted, even if a move to Barcelona could be something of a dream.

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