Having been rejected as an eight-year-old by Schalke 04, İlkay Gündoğan is relishing returning to Gelsenkirchen with Manchester City in what could potentially be a one-sided Champions League clash.
While Pep Guardiola's high-flying City are top the Premier League table, Schalke, Wednesday's opponents in the last 16, first-leg clash, are just above the Bundesliga's relegation places and struggling to score goals down in 14th place. Like City's Germany winger Leroy Sane, Gündoğan, 28, began his career at Schalke's academy, but despite having been rejected as a child after only one season, there will be no element of revenge come kick-off at the Veltins Arena.
"I have [forgiven them], but it wasn't always so," Gündoğan told German magazine Kicker with a grin. "At the time, due to growth spurts, I had physical problems and couldn't play any sports for half a year, so I dropped out. Three or four years later, Schalke attempted to contact me, but I was a bit resentful. I just wanted to play football with my closest friends rather than be back in an academy."
Gündoğan ended up playing for local club Hessler, joining Bochum as a junior before playing Bundesliga football for Nuremberg, he then spent five years at Borussia Dortmund from where he joined City in 2016. On paper, City could run riot in Germany, but Gündoğan insists the Citizens will take nothing for granted.
"There is a danger as everyone thinks Schalke don't have a chance and even though it's an away game, we're expected to dominate," said Gündoğan. "Schalke have nothing to lose - we have a lot - which raises the pressure on us." Schalke last reached the Champions League quarterfinals in 2011 when ex-Real Madrid legend Raul inspired their run before losing in the last four to Manchester United. Head coach Domenico Tedesco insisted they could still shock City despite Saturday's drab goalless draw at home to Freiburg left them winless in their last three league games.