Borussia Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp has confirmed that Ilkay Gundogan will not return from injury before the end of the season, all-but ruling the midfielder out of the World Cup.
Gundogan, 23, had been close to breaking into the Germany starting XI in 2013 as stellar season for Dortmund, and some excellent displays for the national team saw him challenge Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger for a spot in Joachim Loew’s midfield.
However, since suffering a mysterious back injury in August 2013, the Gelsenkirchen-born player has not played a minute of first team football, and only made a brief comeback on the training pitch during Dortmund’s winter training camp in Spain.
Gundogan has spent the past few months getting treatment for his back injury, which has been described as an inflammation of a nerve by his club.
There has been speculation that the midfielder may even be forced to retire because of the problem, though such rumours were rejected by kicker reporter Thomas Hennecke earlier this week.
During a news conference on Thursday, Klopp said that things were getting better for the former Nuernberg man, but confirmed that Gundogan will not return to the Dortmund squad this season.
“It is clear that, within this narrow time frame, Ilkay will not make it,” Klopp said. “It’s getting better all the time. But as bitter as it is for all involved, especially for Ilkay, you just need to accept that this thing needs time.”
Earlier this week, Germany coach Loew had told kicker that Gundogan’s top priority was to fully return to fitness rather than rushing back and with the provisional World Cup squad announcement scheduled for May, the midfielder hopes of making it to Brazil appear to have ended.
It is also expected that Gundogan will have to make a decision about his club future within the next two to three weeks, with Dortmund keen t to avoid a similar situation to Robert Lewandowski, who is set for a free transfer to Bayern Munich in the summer.