Ilkay Gundogan, who joined Dortmund in 2011 from Nurnberg, starred for Jurgen Klopp's side on their way to the Champions League final, only to be beaten by Bundesliga rivals Bayern Munich at Wembley. Gundogan played a key role in the midfield for Dortmund, and his impressive displays have reportedly prompted interest from the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester United.
But with speculation about a summer move growing ever stronger, CEO Watzke says that the club will be able to cope with his departure, just as they did when Nuri Sahin left for Real Madrid in 2011, while also hoping that Robert Lewandowski will be the only loss this summer, with the Polish striker heading to Bayern on a free transfer.
"Of course you're always trying to keep your top players, this is completely normal and we want to extend Ilkay's contract," he told Sky Sport News. "But you also have to see a sale as an opportunity. In 2011, we lost Nuri Sahin, who was the Bundesliga player of the year and we recovered. Ideally, we manage it so that only one top player goes again this year, namely Robert Lewandowski."
The news will surely encourage Manchester United to make a bid in the summer, particularly as the man Gundogan replaced – Nuri Sahin – is now back with Dortmund following his failed spell in Spain, and could be seen as the replacement for his replacement, so to speak.
United are still believed to be on the look-out for midfielders despite landing Chelsea's Juan Mata in a blockbuster £37.1million switch. But any deal for Gundogan would almost certainly take place in the summer, leaving manager David Moyes to play out the rest of the season without a midfield solution alongside Michael Carrick. £27.5million summer signing Marouane Fellaini has yet to justify his price tag, while Brazilian Anderson has left the club for a loan spell with Serie A side Fiorentina.
With rumours suggesting that United are willing to pay £23million for Gundogan, it seems that Moyes is prepared to bide his time to land his perfect midfielder, and with Dortmund now saying that they could live without the 23-year-old, the path may be clear to bring him to Old Trafford.
image: © Michael Kranewitter