Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola and his squad are praying that FA Cup final hero Ilkay Gundogan hasn’t just played his final match in England.
Gundogan was Captain Fantastic at Wembley with both goals in a 2-1 victory against Manchester United for the second leg of a prospective historic Treble.
The 32-year-old German’s contract at the Etihad runs out after next Saturday’s Champions League final in Istanbul with Barcelona ready to pounce should he fail to reach agreement with the Premier League champions.
He said: ‘I don’t need these kind of days to feel appreciated and feel special in this club. I know that and that is why I have been here seven years. Nothing is decided yet, we will see what will happen.’
It is understood Gundogan would like a long-term deal to stay having been Guardiola’s first signing at the club in 2016.
FA Cup final hero Ilkay Gundogan could have played his final match in England on Saturday
Tearful Pep Guardiola embraces his German captain after Manchester City’s FA Cup triumph
Guardiola made it clear he would like City to reach agreement with the player he gave the armband to a year ago when Fernandinho left.
‘Ilkay knows what I think,’ said the City boss. ‘Maybe some of you know we are neighbours, we have lived on the same floor of the same block so for many years he is a close friend of mine.
‘Txiki Begiristain, City director of football)) is working (on Gundogan) deal and hopefully he can do it and we can finish in a good way.
‘He is an exceptional player and scored many important goals like today. Who could forget the two against Aston Villa last season when we won the title.’
Defeated United skipper Bruno Fernandes admitted that Gundogan had ‘won it for City’ and Guardiola’s players echoed their manager’s “Please stay” message to their influential leader.
‘I hope this isn’t his last game in England,’ said defender John Stones. ‘What a player, he turns up on big occasions and gets incredible goals.
‘But it’s not just that, it is how he dictates the play and controls everything. Amazing.’
Gundogan has strengthened his negotiating position by scoring six goals in six games at the end of the season, already earning City their second League and FA Cup double in five seasons.
Manchester City’s Captain Fantastic scored twice as his dominant side beat local rivals Manchester United at Wembley
But he has left the door ajar to an extension after it had looked more likely at one stage he was headed to the Nou Camp.
‘Nothing is decided yet. We will see what is going to happen,’ he said.
‘I don’t need these kind of days to feel appreciated at this club. I know this and that is why I have been here seven years through all the ups and downs.
‘Everyone knows the FA Cup is the most beautiful domestic club competition in the world so to win this trophy again and complete the Double is incredibly difficult.
‘I am so proud to captain this side. Our focus now, however, is on recovering and being fully prepared for next weekend’s Champions League final.’
A dramatic FA Cup final saw Gundogan score the fastest goal in cup final history, timed at just under 13 seconds, before United equalised with a controversial penalty when the ball hit Jack Grealish’s outstretched arm from close range.
City recovered from the setback to seal their victory in the second half with another less cleanly-hit strike by Gundogan that United legend Peter Schmeichel felt David de Gea should have saved.
The only cloud on a sunny afternoon was United defender Victor Lindelof being struck by an object as he celebrated his side’s goal at the City end of the stadium.
TV pundit Alan Shearer was left fuming about the penalty call which referee Paul Tierney gave after being asked to consult his TV monitor.
‘I am inclined to swear it annoys me that much,’ he said. ‘The law is terrible. That is a natural position (from Grealish) when you head the ball and you’re coming back down.
The German fired Manchester City ahead after just 12 seconds with a superb volley from outside the box to beat David De Gea
The midfielder then found the net in the 51st minute with a left-footed strike, as United struggled to defend from City’s corner
‘What on earth are you meant to do?’
At Old Trafford in January, City lost the plot after a controversial United equaliser and conceded againa few minutes later. This time however Guardiola was confident his players wouldn’t fold.
‘I had the feeling we would react well to the punch,’ he said. ‘The only time I was concerned was right at the end when my team was tired and they put on Weghorst and McTominay and put it in the air.
‘Overall, the better team won. It is the best way to score right at the start. The manager is a genius.’