Ilkay Gündogan's final act as Manchester City captain was to lift the Champions League trophy into the Istanbul sky. Now, just three weeks later, the 32-year-old German international has embarked upon one final challenge in the autumn of his career at Barcelona.
"For me it has been a total privilege and pleasure to be part of Manchester City for the last seven years," Gündogan said in a statement. "Manchester has been my home and I have felt part of a very special family at City.
"I have been lucky to have experienced so many unforgettable moments in my time here and to have been captain for this extra special season has been the greatest experience of my career."
In seven years in Manchester, Gündogan won a total of 14 trophies, including five Premier League titles - the fifth of which came as part of a Treble alongside the Champions League and the FA Cup, in which Gündogan scored twice in the final against local rivals Manchester United.
Now, with his contract set to expire, and the City hierarchy led by head coach Pep Guardiola looking to rejuvenate the squad, Gündogan has joined Spanish champions Barcelona on a free transfer, signing a two-year deal with a €400m (($435.72m) buyout clause.
Gündogan a top target for Barca
Barcelona had made the former Borussia Dortmund midfielder their top target this summer after losing their battle to bring club legend Lionel Messi back into the fold, and former coach Guardiola hasn't stood in their way.
"If Barca sign him, they will have a spectacular footballer on their hands," he told reporters on Monday. "I am aware [Barcelona coach] Xavi has called him a lot. If, in the end, he picks Barca, I will tell him he will enjoy himself."
Though he made his name at Borussia Dortmund as a deeper lying midfielder, Gündogan has added an increased attacking threat to his game at City, culminating in both goals in a 2-1 win over Manchester United in the FA Cup final on June 3.
He will doubtless enjoy himself at Barcelona, but he will also be pressed to best Spanish youngster Pedri. The 20-year old is a consistent offensive threat from the middle, in the same manner as Gündogan. But the German midfielder's versatility will serve him well.
Gündogan's signing puts him in one of Europe's most famous clubs in the autumn of his career. But, having been a softly spoken captain of a City side packed with talent, he will undoubtedly continue to lead, and has a chance to land more silverware in coming years.
"He's not the loudest player but he's exceptional," said City's Kevin de Bruyne ahead of the Champions League final. "Whenever it gets tough, he's there. He scores incredible goals. He's important. He's our captain."
City moving on
Guardiola told reporters on Monday he wanted to keep the midfielder. But not long after, the club reportedly agreed to bring Croatian midfielder Mateo Kovacic over from Chelsea. Kovacic was actually part of the Chelsea side that defeated City in Champions League final in 2021. Prior to that, he also helped Real Madrid win three Champions Leagues.
City will be glad to have a new midfielder after giving up Gündogan, who scored six times in the last seven games of the season. Though Kovacic has pedigree, he has big shoes to fill.
Edited by: Matt Pearson
This article was originally published on June 22 and updated on June 26 to reflect confirmation of the move.