Jürgen Klopp's zestful young Borussia Dortmund team have attracted plaudits aplenty for the way they have dealt with all-comers en route to the club's first UEFA Champions League final since 1997.
AFC Ajax, Real Madrid CF, Manchester City FC, FC Shakhtar Donetsk and Málaga CF have proved no match for the Schwarzgelben during their run to Wembley, where on Saturday they play FC Bayern München.
Marco Reus, Jakub Błaszczykowski, Kevin Grosskreutz and Bayern-bound Mario Götze have revelled in advanced midfield positions – their energy, interplay and passing bewitching the opposition – yet the role performed by the versatile İlkay Gündoğan, largely as part of a central two in a 4-2-3-1 system, has been just as pivotal.
While the former 1. FC Nürnberg schemer has yet to score in this season's competition, acclaim has been widespread for a man who has appeared in all but one of Dortmund's 12 European games in 2012/13. "We got him [in summer 2011] and he has turned into a real strategist," Klopp told UEFA.com. "It is extraordinary. Not many players can do that.
"Many players can play in a small space, play fast and do a lot of great things, but to have such vision, such a passing game, such an eye for the situation, is extraordinary and makes him an extraordinary player."
High praise for a 22-year-old who could add a European Cup winners' medal to the Bundesliga title he won 12 months ago at the end of his first campaign at the BVB Stadion Dortmund. Gündoğan, though, realises he still has some way to go in his "development" before he can be considered anywhere near the finished article.
"I am very proud that it has gone so well for me, but I know I have not reached the top of my development," said the German international. "I have enough motivation to work even harder, to develop further and to be able to say I have done everything in order to give my best on the pitch."
Click on the video player above to hear more from Klopp and Gündoğan.
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