In October 2014, Ilkay Gündogan made a long-overdue return to first-team action after 14 months out with injury
In October 2014, Ilkay Gündogan made a long-overdue return to first-team action after 14 months out with injury

Making up for lost time

It says a lot for 's ability that he became a fan favourite at Borussia Dortmund in the space of a few months of the 2011/12 season, and even more when you consider he was born in Gelsenkirchen (24 October 1990), the home of arch-rivals FC Schalke 04.

Schoolboy pro

To make matters worse, Gündogan even played for his hometown club's youth team, but his silky performances for BVB in the months after his arrival in the summer of 2011 soon eased any anxieties about where his loyalties lay.

Following his short spell at Schalke, Gündogan joined the VfL Bochum youth academy in 2005 before catching the eye of then Bundesliga 2 side 1. FC Nürnberg, who secured the youngster's services in early 2009. Boasting excellent composure on the ball and an innate ability to spot gaps in the opposition defence, the midfielder established himself as an indispensible figure in der Club's first team. Quite an achievement for a player who was still studying for his school leaving certificate at the time.

His performances did not go unnoticed and there was soon a long queue of clubs hoping to snap him up. Dortmund won the race for his signature and brought him back to the Ruhr area. "He's an extraordinarily good passer, technically superb, has a terrific attitude and is a very smart boy," said BVB coach Jürgen Klopp.

Breakthrough year

Opting to represent Germany rather than his parents' homeland Turkey, Gündogan failed to make an appearance at UEFA Euro 2012 - despite being included in Joachim Löw's squad - but he blossomed into one of Europe's best midfielders the following season.

In February 2013 he turned in a memorable display for Germany in a friendly win against France that led Löw to call him "a potentially world-class midfielder". That game was slap-bang in the middle of a string of excellent games for Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League, one of which, a truly sensational performance at the Santiago Bernabeu helped BVB get past Real Madrid CF in the semi-final of the 2013 UEFA Champions League. He scored in the final in an eventual 2-1 defeat to domestic rivals FC Bayern München at Wembley.

Year-long injury absence

Established as one of world football's star names, Gündogan's career then hit a major low when he suffered a back injury on the first day of the 2013/14 season, which he aggravated days later playing for Germany. The mysterious injury would eventually keep him for over a year, until he made a long-awaited comeback against 1. FC Köln in October 2014, before scoring his first goal in 20 months against Hoffenheim on 5 December.