I watched the Nations League with interest. This mini-European Championship was a foretaste of Uefa Euro 2024. The emotional highlight for me was Croatia’s victory against the hosts, the Netherlands, in the semi-finals. The stadium was sold out, the Dutch had been unbeaten at De Kuip for 23 years but after extra time 20,000 Croats celebrated in Rotterdam.

Not even 4 million people live in this country, yet Croatia have been to the World Cup semi-finals twice recently.

The team are so strong and so popular with their fans because the players are passionate about playing for their nation.

Their outstanding player is Luka Modric. He has been part of his national team for a good 17 years. Modric, recognised as a brilliant midfielder in Europe and the world, is an icon like Xavi or Andrea Pirlo.

Now Ilkay Gündogan has joined this squad by winning the Champions League as captain of Manchester City. After seven years and five Premier League titles, the victory in the Istanbul final marked the end of an era. Pep Guardiola has rid himself of a shortcoming, proving that City can now win anything at any time, just like Real Madrid and Barcelona. And Gündogan was an important part of that success. The midfield with him, Rodri and Kevin De Bruyne can be mentioned in the same breath as that of Real Madrid with Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Modric in their heyday.

Players such as Gündogan and Modric do not possess that one skill. It is not physicality, speed, the one‑on‑one that makes them, not the perfect shot or an outstanding header. It is the sum of everything.

They give their teams order and structure. In every situation, they recalculate the chances and dangers – those for the opponent, those for their own team. They secure the ball, keep it in their ranks, recognise the moment to attack. Gündogan and Modric maintain the balance between defence and offence. They are specialists in managing risk on the pitch. That creates stability, security and control.

Successful coaches know that this type of player is indispensable. They also know that great things take time. When Guardiola moved to Manchester, he brought Gündogan from Dortmund. Then they developed something together over the years. Alone you are nothing in team sport. Players such as Gündogan are particularly valuable when the team are well combined. That is the case at Manchester City.

Good players are plentiful, good teams much less so. For success, there has to be an overall structure that reinforces the individual qualities. Players such as Gündogan, Xavi or Pirlo benefit from this. A game idea, a clever division of labour, something organic – all the great teams in history have had something of this.

Now, at 32, Gündogan is one of those players who can be the heart of a team. In cooperation with the coach, he has fully developed his abilities. For such players to continue to come into their own, they need an appropriate environment. Players of this calibre check with the coach and club before making a move.

Therefore, it was a logical decision for Gündogan to go to Barcelona. If away from Guardiola, then to Xavi. As a player, Xavi was part of a style-forming midfield with Andrés Iniesta and Sergio Busquets. Now he is seizing the opportunity. Gündogan, who carries the Spanish philosophy, is available. What Xavi lacks at Barcelona, he acquires. That involves a small risk.

Arsenal would also have been a good solution, because the former Guardiola pupil Mikel Arteta also trades for the long term. Paris Saint-Germain, on the other hand, where Gündogan was under discussion, lack continuity and organic growth in the development of the team.

So it will be an exciting new season. In the Champions League, the best international club league, competition could emerge for Manchester City and the eternal Real. Barça have left a gap to the top clubs in recent years but with Gündogan there is a chance to close it. In the Premier League, the strongest national league, Arsenal will be looking to counter the perennial winners City.

Luka Modric celebrates scoring against Netherlands

Modric is Croatia’s outstanding player after masterminding their success over the last 17 years. Photograph: DeFodi Images/Getty Images

As tournament director, I am particularly looking forward to Uefa Euro 2024, the competition between nations with the highest quality density in the world. Modric finally wants to win a title. He came close in 2018, 2022 and 2023, but it’s difficult with Croatia. Gündogan has better credentials, similar to Xavi, who won three times with Spain. Their nations are big enough to become world or European champions.

Everything in club football revolves around Gündogan, because he is predestined for game idea and cohesion. But the German XI is stumbling, which worries me. Despite Gündogan, you can’t see any formation, any approach. The team lack control, balance and stability. There is still time until the opening game on 14 June but something has to happen now. Because these elements need to be developed.

It would be nice if the hosts are strong. That is always good for the atmosphere of the tournament. You want to see squads that perform as a team. That was the case last time with the England women during Euro 2022. There was a bond between them and their compatriots that created identity. Then football works, then it does its job, then it gives something to society.