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Gundogan, Haaland and Sancho - why Man City & Dortmund look to each other for next generation of stars

3:51 AM EDT 9/14/22
Erling Haaland Man City
The Premier League champions have a history of successful business with their Champions League rivals

Ahead of their Champions League clash at the Etihad Stadium, it would be easy to suggest that there is not too much common between Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund.

One has the financial power to attract the best players in the world, the other has to sell to try to compete.

One is dominating domestically with four league titles in five years, the other is perennially in the shadow of their country's biggest club.

One has realistic ambitions of winning the Champions League, the other is hoping to go as far as they can and dreaming rather than anticipating European success.

But for all their differences in the boardrooms, on the pitch there are similarities that bond the way the two sides play.

A team ethic and individual talent that see City regularly raid Dortmund for first-team improvements and German scouts regular attend youth team fixtures to spy on the next generation of potential superstars.

Transfer business between the two has often brought both success in recent years.

  • Gundogan Dortmund

    Guardiola's first signing

    The City squad was in need of an overhaul when Pep Guardiola took charge in 2016 but his first signing was an astute move for Dortmund midfielder Ilkay Gundogan.

    With 12 months remaining on his contract, City moved quickly to sign him for a bargain £21million, after talks in March 2016, when Guardiola was still in Germany with Dortmund's rivals Bayern Munich.

    The Catalan signed off the move as he wanted an intelligent and calming influence in midfield, that could dictate the tempo while team-mates Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling lit the fireworks.

    Tactically, City would be different to Jurgen Klopp's "heavy metal football" he experienced for much of his time at Dortmund, but Gundogan was in the side because of his style and brains, which came to the fore even more under Thomas Tuchel.

    A serious knee injury blighted his first season, but Gundogan has grown in influence and is now not only the first signing, but possibly the shrewdest made under Guardiola.

    His ability to play in different roles developed at Dortmund has given the City boss extra flexibility and it was his introduction as a dynamic number eight, making decisive runs into the box, that proved critical in winning last season's title in the final 10 minutes of the campaign.

  • Erling Haaland Dortmund 2021-22

    Great strikers

    Okay, there was nothing special about City's talent scouts spotting the potential of Erling Haaland.

    Every major club in Europe wanted the Norwegian international, particularly for a bargain £51m transfer fee because of his release clause, and it was up to City to convince him that the Etihad Stadium was his best move.

    His numbers in Germany were phenomenal - 86 goals in 89 appearances - but while Haaland is blessed with natural ability and an innate sense of goalscoring, his all-round game improved under the coaching of Lucien Favre, Edin Terzic and Marco Rose.

    "He has better timing, finds a good position, and he's making the right decisions," Rose said last December. "He's taken another step forward, but I'm not surprised by Erling, because he is of course a player willing to learn and tries to convert every little weakness that he recognises in himself into a strength."

    And Guardiola has signed proven goalscorers from Dortmund before - taking Robert Lewandowski to Bayern Munich and describing him as "the most professional player I have ever met".

  • Manuel Akanji-manchenster city-transfer

    Ball-playing centre-backs

    Guardiola wanted extra resources at centre-back this season with injuries to Aymeric Laporte, John Stones and Nathan Ake in a position that he has struggled to cover in similar circumstances in the past.

    But it needed to be the same mixture of strong defensive understanding and ability on the ball that his other defenders possess.

    Akanji drew comparisons with City's former captain Vincent Kompany during his time at Dortmund so with just 12 months remaining on his contract, the Premier League champions snapped him up for another bargain, this time £15m.

    After seeing him close up in the Champions League quarter-finals in 2021, Guardiola was confident that he would be a good fit in his side.

    "He is fast and really good in the build-up. We saw this when we faced Dortmund," the City boss said after his signing. “We are glad he is here.”

  • Sergio Gomez

    Attacking full-backs

    Barcelona are probably the club that Guardiola will be most impressed with on any CV, so when Oleksander Zinchenko left for Arsenal in the summer, former La Masia player Marc Cucurella was the first choice.

    But with Brighton playing hardball and then Chelsea paying extravagantly to take him to Stamford Bridge, Guardiola had to look elsewhere.

    Among the alternatives looked at was Dortmund left-back Raphael Guerreiro with the Portuguese international having the attacking instincts and defensive profile that they like.

    Ultimately, a move never happened and instead they moved for Anderlecht's Sergio Gomez.

    Dortmund had seen his qualities when he was an attacking midfielder in Barca's youth ranks and persuaded him to move to Germany.

    He played just seven minutes in the Bundesliga but impressed in Belgium and, at 22, has been given another chance to fulfil his potential that both clubs clearly feel he has.

  • Jadon Sancho Manchester City

    Exit strategy

    It's not a one-way street and City youngsters have also benefitted from making the move in the opposite direction.

    Winger Jadon Sancho is the biggest example.

    Despite being highly-rated by everyone at City, he was impatient to get first-team opportunities and Dortmund offered the chance to play immediately at high level.

    In four seasons in Germany, he made 137 appearances, scored 50 goals and contributed 64 assists for before securing a £73m move back to the Premier League with Manchester United.

    But it was not just about appearances, Sancho's development continued in Dortmund and his decision-making and team contribution improved during his time there.

    "Sancho is of course a very good player but he must also have in mind that he still has a lot to learn," former Favre warned him while he was at the Signal Iduna Park.

  • Jamie Bynoe-Gittens Dortmund Bundesliga 12082022

    The next Sancho?

    The winger's move to Dortmund paved the way for a number of young English players to Europe including former Academy winger Jamie Bynoe-Gittens.

    Comparisons with Sancho are obvious because of their position and career path, but he has already made a big impact.

    Injuries have hurt his progress, but the 18-year-old broke into the first team at the end of last season.

    He scored his first goal in August in the 3-1 victory over Freiburg but will miss a return to Manchester because of a shoulder injury.

  • Jude Bellingham Dortmund Copenhagen 2022-23

    Whose next?

    There is every chance that there could be more business between the two clubs in the near-future.

    Scouts from Germany are regulars at City Academy matches and the two UEFA Youth League matches will give a good opportunity to for a close look at the next generation.

    Dortmund, meanwhile, continue to challenge despite losing players with the quality of Haaland and Sancho in recent years.

    Midfielder Jude Bellingham has been one of the most outstanding performers in Germany for some time and, still 19, his potential is huge.

    English clubs are going to want to bring him back to the Premier League sooner or later and it would be expected that City would be among those interested.

    "I can't believe it, maybe he's a liar!" Guardiola said when asked about the 17-year-old performances over their two matches in 2021.

    "He's so good for 17 years old, he's a fantastic player. There was one moment when he didn't get the ball from central defenders, how he shouts and demands that ball to him at 17 means a lot."

    With Gundogan out of contract at the end of the season and Barcelona continuing to track Bernardo Silva, it's possible City could be in the market for a leading midfielder soon and Bellingham would be an exciting prospect.