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Man City have two top captaincy candidates and a shock new leader if Ilkay Gundogan leaves

Man City have two top captaincy candidates and a shock new leader if Ilkay Gundogan leaves

Pep Guardiola will be hoping for a summer with minimal disruptions, but Ilkay Gundogan’s future is still uncertain.

Last year was a busy one for Manchester City, as Guardiola eschewed his usual strategy of incremental improvement through tweaks in the transfer window in favor of a massive squad overhaul to keep his players hungry and fresh.

Four key contributors to the club’s recent success, Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling, Aleks Zinchenko, and Fernandinho, were replaced by Erling Haaland, Julian Alvarez, Manuel Akanji, and Kalvin Phillips.

Not only did a great deal of winning experience depart, but the arrival of a lethal center forward in Haaland marked the beginning of a new era and playing style at the Etihad.

It took some time for City to fully gel, but they are now looking better than ever.

Guardiola may be hoping for a summer of consolidation and subtle additions this time around, in light of the inevitable kinks that resulted from so much change. However, he may have little choice in the matter of Gundogan.

The midfielder who continues to be such an integral part of Guardiola’s team and one of his most trusted lieutenants on the biggest occasions is out of contract in the summer. The Blues manager has acknowledged that he has earned the right to do whatever he wants, as Barcelona has already been linked with a move for him.

“I think I know my opinion about Ilkay. What Ilkay has done against Aston VIlla last season he can do whatever he wants,” he said in February. “He has the paradise already. So he knows exactly my opinion about him.

“The club knows it and it is a question for him and his agent. What is going to happen I’m pretty sure is going to be good for him. Really we want how he is behaving, how he has behaved all his life in Manchester but what is going to happen? This kind of things belongs to the club and the player.”

Losing Gundogan would be devastating to the team not only because he is a superb player, but also because he is a leader with a strong personality. If he leaves, it will be the fourth time in the past five years that City has lost its captain, following the departures of Vincent Kompany, David Silva, and Fernandinho.

The question is therefore, who would succeed Gundogan should he depart? Each season, City democratically appoints captains and votes on a leadership group of five. A player can both earn and lose a position. Last season, Kevin De Bruyne filled in for Fernandinho for the majority of the season, so no one expected Gundogan to be named captain. However, he won the vote.

However, De Bruyne would be a prime candidate this time. The Belgian is currently the vice-captain once more, has continued to lead the team in Gundogan’s absence, and has just been named the new captain of his country, leading them to two victories against Germany with two assists and a goal during the most recent international break.

As one of the most senior and best players in the locker room, it is difficult to look past De Bruyne, but there is one other candidate with a chance. What Ruben Dias lacks in years, he makes up for with his drive and inspiration in the backfield.

Dias is a true team leader, not only because he marshals the back line but also because he pushes the team forward, barks instructions and compliments, and defends his teammates. It is not surprising that his return to the team coincides with a dramatic improvement in its performance.

Dias has always assumed leadership of his teams. Last year, he told Forbes that it all began when he made his debut for local side C.F. Estrela da Amadora as a child.

“My team was suffering a bit and I just ended up running everywhere. I was trying to speak with everyone, trying to organize it and make everyone run together. It was just a feeling of ‘I’ll do it. No matter what, I will sacrifice more. I will be ready to sleep more, ready to party less. I won’t be bothered with girlfriends, I won’t be bothered with making too many friends that might just distract me while I’m pursuing my dream.

“Having the talent and having the right mindset together can make you unstoppable.”

Despite his youth, Dias quickly established himself as one of the team’s veteran players upon his arrival, and Guardiola explained why in 2021. “The club doesn’t give you a role as a leader, it comes from inside, the natural way. If it’s not real the people realise it. He’s not, he’s a guy when he says something he believes it and wants to help the guys. He takes a responsibility in the good and bad moments.”

Should Gundogan leave, there will also be a position in the leadership group of five, alongside Dias, Rodri, and Kyle Walker. Nathan Ake is one of the names you may find unexpected. 

This season, the Dutchman’s performance has improved significantly, and he has become virtually undroppable by Guardiola. In addition, he has previously captained teams and appears to be a positive, hardworking presence in the locker room.

Guardiola can rest assured that regardless of what transpires this summer, he will still have a team full of capable leaders.

Man City have two top captaincy candidates and a shock new leader if Ilkay Gundogan leaves

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