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'He is an exceptional player' - Guardiola hails 'intelligent' Gundogan as one of Europe's best

23:36 GMT 01/11/2019
Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva, Man City
The Germany international has proven his worth time and again this year, with his manager filled with warm praise for his efforts in 2019-20

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has hailed Ilkay Gundogan as "an exceptional player", describing him as one of the smartest and most versatile midfielders in Europe.

The Germany international has proved to be a key figure in the Premier League champions' pursuit of a third successive crown this season as they look to write further history in English football.

With City struck by an injury crisis, Gundogan has proven his worth above the call of duty as a makeshift operator across Guardiola's starting XI to provide cover where needed.

The 28-year-old's contributions have not gone unnoticed by his coach either, who was effusive in his praise for the former Borussia Dortmund star.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference ahead of his side's clash with Southampton on Saturday, the Spaniard gave an impressive appraisal of Gundogan's talents.

“He is such an intelligent player,” he stated. “That’s one of the qualities I appreciate the most, intelligence - the players who understand everything that happens during the game and solve it as quick as possible.

“He can play in many roles. He can play close to the box as the guy who scores the goals. He has that personality, especially in that position.

“As [a] holding midfielder, I didn’t expect he would be so consistent in that role, defending that position, but he is. He is an exceptional player. He is one of Europe’s best, in fact."

Guardiola admitted that he hadn't thought to use Gundogan in the anchor midfield role until last season and that he had tried other methods to plug the gap during Fernandinho's injury lay-offs last year.

"Sometimes it happens when you don’t have alternatives," he added. “Sometimes when Ferna couldn’t play, I used other players. I didn’t use [Gundogan] because I didn’t realise.

“Look how wrong I was! After, when I didn’t have an alternative in that position, I played him and said ‘wow’, how aggressive he is without the ball and knows the movements he has to do.

“He is not a typical midfielder, but we need quality on the ball, not just defending. We didn’t have any doubts about his talent with the ball.

"Last season, when Ferna was injured more than usual, he played there and was outstanding, in all aspects of the game.”