Pep Guardiola names smartest player he ever coached

Pep Guardiola has lauded Barcelona’s midfielder Ilkay Gundogan as one of the most astute players he’s ever managed.

After leaving City on a free transfer to join Barcelona, Gundogan became a mainstay in Xavi’s lineup.

Guardiola highlighted Gundogan’s exceptional intelligence as what sets him apart and shared his gratification in coaching the German international.

“İlkay didn’t talk much, but when he did, everyone listened to him, including me as a coach. It was clear and direct. He is a very intelligent player, one of the smartest I have ever coached. He was the key to our success,” he said.

“A player can be fast, he can have a good shot, but what makes him stand out from the rest and become an elite player is his intelligence. Making the right decisions under pressure, knowing what the team needs at all times, that’s the type of player I’m looking for.

“I love smart players. I only had to explain everything to İlkay once. He understood it and put it into practice immediately. That is extraordinary.”

Guardiola also went on to highlight Gundogan’s strengths and believes he has the potential to get into double figures when it comes to scoring goals.

“[He is best at] is playing the ball in small, confined spaces. For example, as a number ten, behind the center forward. But he also provides passes to the full-backs,” he added.

“The nose for finding the right moment, the control of the ball and the precision of his passes: all this is exceptional in İlkay. I have to add that İlkay himself is a good scorer. He can easily score between ten and fifteen goals per season.”

Gundogan scored only five goals in his first campaign in La Liga with Barcelona but is now set to link up with former Germany head coach Hansi Flick in Catalunya.

JB

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