Ilkay Gundogan is too good for Man City to let go! Winners & losers as Barcelona transfer target stars once again in easy Everton win

Ilkay Gundogan Manchester City 2022-23
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The midfielder is proving instrumental in the title run-in, and after two brilliant strikes against the Toffees, City would be crazy to let him leave

Just when they thought he was out, Ilkay Gundogan pulled himself back into Manchester City's future plans with another virtuoso display. Having downed Leeds United last week with two ruthless strikes, the Germany international showed his true class with a pair of outstanding goals, plus an assist, in the 3-0 win over Everton.

The 32-year-old was City's most inventive player, and while the Premier League leaders were not at their dominant best at a fired-up Goodison Park, Gundogan certainly was. He scored the opener when the Toffees couldn't have sensed any danger, conjuring up a magical flick into the net despite having has back to goal.

His free-kick strike in the second half was another jaw-dropping moment, and City must now be wondering whether they should work harder to try and convince him to sign a new contract. Gundogan was Guardiola's first signing, and after the game the coach again expressed his desire for the player to extend his stay at the Etihad Stadium. That could spell bad news for Barcelona, who are hoping to sign him on a free transfer this summer.

Speaking of bad news, Real Madrid will have been disheartened by the fact that City managed to win without exerting themselves too much ahead of Wednesday's Champions League semi-final second leg.

GOAL breaks down the winners & losers from Goodison Park...

  1. WINNER: Ilkay Gundogan
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    WINNER: Ilkay Gundogan

    If this is to be Gundogan's last season with City, then this is one hell of a swansong. After netting twice against Leeds last week, he carved open another relegation-threatened side. But this time he had to work much harder, as Everton were fired up by the crowd and playing with a real intensity.

    Gundogan prised the Toffees open with a moment of genius, controlling Riyad Mahrez's cross with his thigh then, noticing he had no space to turn, flicked the ball past Jordan Pickford and into the net. The goal left Everton utterly stunned, as no one could have thought he could have scored from such a situation, with his back to goal and deprived of space.

    Moments later, he teed up Erling Haaland with a perfectly-weighted cross. Even before his goal and assist, he was City's most active player, dovetailing with Phil Foden down the left and constantly probing Everton's defence. City will sure miss him when he's gone, whether that is next season or two or three years down the line.

  2. LOSER: Barcelona

    The Catalans have shown a lot of interest in signing Gundogan, and since their financial crisis began to bite they have made a habit of trying to sign players whose contracts are about to run out, such as Marcos Alonso, Andreas Christensen, Sergio Aguero and Memphis Depay.

    But the midfielder's latest performances might make City think twice about letting such a crucial player go, and instead offer him an improved contract at the end of the season, when his deal expires. Guardiola certainly has not given up convincing Gundogan to stay, and after the match he dismissed suggestions that the player is certain to leave.

    "No one knows what will happen, maybe he stays. Hopefully," said the coach, who only last week had also expressed his desire for Gundogan to remain at the club.

    Gundogan owns a house in Barcelona and a move to the Catalans is believed to be motivated by lifestyle choices as much as footballing ones. But City would be crazy to let such a valuable and versatile player leave for free, and if it comes down to who can make Gundogan the better offer, they will surely beat the cash-strapped Catalans.

  3. WINNER: Erling Haaland

    WINNER: Erling Haaland

    After seeing off Alan Shearer and Andy Cole's Premier League scoring record for a single season, the only player to have scored more goals than the Norwegian in an English top-flight campaign is Dixie Dean. A statue of the former Everton striker, who scored 60 goals in the 1927-28 season, greets visitors to Goodison Park.

    Comparisons between Haaland and Dean have been rife in the media and on social media in the last week, and whilst it is a highly amusing debate, it is an ultimately absurd one. Dean played almost a century ago in a completely different era to the one Haaland is in, when the ball was heavier, pitches were muddier, challenges far meatier and players could not be substituted if they got injured.

    But one thing the players share is an insatiable lust for scoring. And after failing to score against Leeds and Real Madrid, which amounts to a goal drought by the Norwegian's insane standards, he was back amongst the goals here.

    When he produced a monstrous jump to head in Gundogan's cross, it was only his third touch of the game. We'll never know who was the better striker, but we can all agree that Haaland is one of a kind, and if not the best striker to have ever played in England, then certainly the best of the 21st century.

  4. LOSER: Real Madrid
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    LOSER: Real Madrid

    City had to prepare for this game while still thinking about their semi-final second leg against Real Madrid and were forced to play on Sunday due to the Eurovision Song Contest taking place in Liverpool, giving them one day's fewer rest than Carlo Ancelotti's side, who beat Getafe 1-0 on Saturday.

    Unlike City, Los Blancos do not have a title race to worry about, and Ancelotti was able to make eight changes against Getafe. But any advantage Real might have felt they had due to their contrasting domestic situations was minimal.

    Guardiola managed to leave key players like Kevin De Bruyne and John Stones on the bench, while only introducing Jack Grealish and Bernardo Silva for the final 12 minutes. And he was able to take Haaland and Gundogan off early, too.

    Gundogan and Haaland's goals in quick succession in the first half allowed City to take their foot gently off the gas while remaining in control of the game and still winning comfortably. While they would have preferred the extra day's rest, the fact that they are in a title race should not harm their chances on Wednesday.

    If anything, they will feel extra motivated by the prospect of winning the treble.

  5. WINNER: Kyle Walker
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    WINNER: Kyle Walker

    Walker might have been concerned for his City future just one month ago, when he found himself usurped at right-back by Stones and had to endure the ignominy of Guardiola declaring he was not able to play as an inside full-back.

    But he has made an impressive return to form and is now one of the first names on the coach's team sheet once more. It's easy to see why. He's one of the best defenders in the world at racing back to put out fires and he delivered a masterclass in this respect in the first half.

    He cut across the box to chase down Abdoulaye Doucoure and won the ball back with him after a proper physical battle. Later in the first half, when Everton were playing at their best, he charged back to rob the ball off Dominic Calvert-Lewin. City took the lead just a few minutes later.

    After being benched for both legs of the Champions League quarter-final tie with Bayern Munich and not getting on against Liverpool, Walker has started all of City's big games in the last three weeks and put in expert displays against Arsenal and Real Madrid.

    He might not be capable of playing one system that Guardiola might like to play, but even the most sophisticated coaches need players who can snuff out danger. And when it comes to this particular attribute, Walker is one of the best in the business.

  6. LOSER: Mason Holgate
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    LOSER: Mason Holgate

    Holgate has not had an easy season, missing more than two months at the start of the campaign with a knee injury. Since returning to fitness, he has had few opportunities and was sent off in his last outing, against Crystal Palace.

    It was his bad luck that his one opportunity came against City and he really struggled here at left-back. He also missed a golden chance to give Everton the lead, spooning the ball over the bar from close range when he had the goal gaping in front of him. City went down the other end seconds later and took the lead.

    Holgate was put out of his misery when Sean Dyche took him off for Conor Coady. And to make matters worse, Everton fans cheered the substitution.