ILKAY GUNDOGAN has revealed how witnessing the aftermath of the Manchester Arena terror atrocity made him determined to stand by the people of his adopted city.
The suicide bombing that claimed the lives of 22 innocent children and adults happened just a few hundred yards from the flat Gundogan moved into when he arrived from Borussia Dortmund 15 months ago.
Recalling that night Gundogan, 26, who missed most of last season because of a knee injury, said: “I was in my apartment with my mother and heard a loud noise.
“I thought it was like New Year’s Eve. I thought it was something like that, but it was really loud.
“After ten seconds I heard the first ambulance and realised that something had happened but thought it was not connected to this noise.
“Then in the next two minutes there were maybe ten more ambulances and police so I already knew that something bigger happened. I went downstairs to ask people at reception what had happened.
“After a few more minutes they could tell me there was an attack in the arena and my mother and I were very shocked.
“I went outside on the street and I saw a lot of people helping each other. Some people were crying and many helping each other.
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“The boffins at Sun Bets tell me there has never been a Premier League game end 0-0 between these sides too so expect goals.
“I’m going to have to go with Jurgen Klopp’s men as on paper they are the much better side.
“12/1 on a 3-1 away win is very tempting.”
“Later I saw all the flowers in St Ann’s Square. After what had happened I was really surprised how many people I saw there. But it just shows that we all stand together.”
True to his word, in the wake of the attack the Germany midfielder is showing himself to be a true Manc at heart.
Gundogan insists that nightmare experience on May 22 has not made him even consider leaving the city to join many of his team-mates in Cheshire’s superstar belt.
He moved there, he says, because he wanted to properly get to know the place where he works following his £24million transfer. And Gundogan is determined to stay put.
He said: “I stay living in Manchester centre — despite the catastrophe near me I see no reason to leave.
“I am comfortable and want to remain where I live because, as I say, people stand together and that includes me too.”
Gundogan is no stranger to the threat of terrorism — it has reared its ugly head several times in his career.
Some of his former Dortmund team-mates were on the team bus hit by roadside bombs en route to the Westfalenstadion before their Champions League quarter-final with Monaco in April.
In November 2015 he played for Germany in the 2-0 defeat by France in Paris that was overshadowed by the terror attacks that killed 129 that night.
He and his team-mates spent the night holed up in the Stade de France sleeping on mattresses.
Their opponents gallantly stayed with them in a show of solidarity after the German squad was warned not to go back to their hotel.
The following Tuesday, Gundogan was a member of the squad that was supposed to face Holland.
But the friendly was called off two hours before kick-off and the Hannover stadium evacuated.
He said: “Paris was also one of my most horrible nights staying over in the stadium dressing-room.
“So I had already felt what it could be like, perhaps even worse because I was inside it.”
Gundogan is also familiar with personal pain.
He had a dislocated kneecap when he signed for City, then injured a cruciate ligament in the same knee against Watford last December.
But he said seeing so many people suffer in Manchester reminded him there are far worse things than being a footballer on the sidelines.
He insisted: “My issues are so little compared to what happened — you cannot compare those events to anything in football.”