Stoichkov believes ‘Heavyweight’ Gundogan can lead Barça’s youth to success

    Ilkay Gundogan is a midfield heavyweight and his arrival at Barcelona will elevate teammates including Frenkie de Jong, Pedri and Gavi.

    This is the opinion of Barça great Hristo Stoichkov, who is buoyed by the prospect of the former Manchester City captain taking his place in Xavi’s title-winning team.

    Barca won La Liga for the first time since the departure of Lionel Messi in 2021 last season, when the young Blue Garnet team finished 10 points ahead of Real Madrid.

    Gundogan joined Barca in June on a free transfer after helping City become the second team to win the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League trebles, and Stoichkov hopes his experience will benefit younger teammates.

    “I think it’s fantastic because he’s a great player,” Stoichkov told Stats Perform. “I have always liked Gundogan as a player, as he did it in Dortmund, then City and also with his national team.

    “He is a great professional and I think he will help a lot with his experience because Barcelona have a young team.

    “Frankie De Jong, Pedri, Gavi, (Alejandro) Balde, (Ronald) Araujo and Ansu Fati are young and having a heavyweight on the team can help them grow.”

    Gundogan will have to wait for his Camp Nou debut as Barça are due to play their home matches at the Estadi Olympic and their famous home will be refurbished next season.

    President Joan Laporta has promised to build “the best stadium in the world” since the project began in May and Stoichkov says the work, which will include building a new roof, is overdue.

    “Camp Nou is a myth for me, and not only from my time, but since it was built in 1957,” he said. “The greatest players, coaches and presidents in history have passed through this stadium.

    “It is a symbol and temple of world football. When I arrived in Barcelona in 1990 and left at such an important moment, with 120,000 people shouting my name, it will forever remain in my memory.

    “But it is clear that after so many years a renovation is needed and the Camp Nou needs something new.

    “Thank God, Laporta, in his second phase as president, was able to rebuild the Camp Nou and do something new. Barcelona needed it, Catalonia needed it, Barcelona needed it.

    “I will always have good memories. I recently sent some friends to collect a piece of grass, a stone and a seat so that I can put them in my museum because it was very important in my career.

    “I will always remember my first goal for Barcelona at the Camp Nou against Valencia when we won 3-1. When I saw 120,000 people shouting my name, I realized that Camp Nou is a temple.”

    Stoichkov, who won five league titles and the 1991-92 European Cup. during his time at Barça, hopes the upgrade will help the club return to the top of the continental game.

    “We have to recognize that this is the modern age,” he added. “I played very old stadiums in England, Germany, France, Italy and Spain, and today there are new cycles, new presidents, new players, and everyone wanted something new.

    “Obviously when you have a first-tier stadium, you like to enjoy it. This is the time when Barcelona are building a new field and a new team to win the Champions League again in a few years, which I really want.”

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