LONDON (AP) — Moments before Ilkay Gundogan raised aloft the FA Cup trophy to fireworks inside Wembley Stadium, the Manchester City captain leaned over the podium and had a brief word with club chairman Khaldoon Al-Mubarak.
City fans will be hoping the topic of the conversation was a new deal for a player who continues to produce when it matters most for manager Pep Guardiola.
As it stands, Gundogan’s final game for City will be the Champions League final in Istanbul next Saturday, when the team will attempt to beat Inter Milan and clinch an English Premier League-FA Cup-European Cup treble.
How, though, can City let the Germany midfielder go after his latest match-winning display in the 2-1 victory over Manchester United on Saturday?
And like he has done for pretty much the whole of Guardiola’s time at City, having joined in the same summer as the Spanish coach in 2016.
“I don’t need these kind of days to feel appreciated and feel special in this club,” Gundogan said after scoring after 13 seconds and again in the 51st minute to lead City to victory in the first all-Manchester FA Cup final. “I know that and that is why I have been here seven years.”
So, will he be staying at City?
“Nothing is decided yet,” he said. “We’ll see what will happen.”
A one-year extension is on the table for the 32-year-old Gundogan. He wants a two-year deal, reportedly for some longer-term security for him and his family.
Guardiola clearly wants to keep Gundogan. They are good friends — they live next door to each other in an apartment block in Manchester — and they have the same footballing vision.
Gundogan is perhaps the player who best epitomizes the Guardiola era at City.
“He knows what I think of him,” Guardiola said. “(City sporting director) Txiki (Begiristain) is working on it, hopefully we can do it. The season he has done is exceptional.”
Gundogan is a FA Cup record-breaker after scoring the quickest ever goal in the final, timed at 12.91 seconds according to the BBC, and the scorer of a cup-winning goal.
Guardiola, who has played Gundogan as a holding midfielder, a box-to-box central midfielder and a second striker off Erling Haaland this season, praised his mentality and consistency of performance.
“He plays the big games like they are friendlies,” Guardiola said. “He can cope with the pressure.”
If the Champions League is to be Gundogan’s last game — he has been linked with a move to Barcelona if he does leave City — then he is desperate to go out as a treble winner.
“We have a chance to do something special and win the treble and we do not want to let this opportunity pass us by,” he said.
“I can promise our fans we will do everything we can to win in Istanbul.”
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