Manchester City brought in Pep Guardiola to make them part of Europe’s elite, and if he fails to win the Champions League during his time in Manchester he’ll be seen as a failure.
When he joined the club in 2016 City’s chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak told the club’s official website: “I have no doubt that he will transform our team to a new level.” It’s clear he’s done this within the style of play you see at the Etihad, but what Al Mubarak really meant, was to dominate Europe.
City had won the Premier League title twice before Guardiola, they’d also played some brilliant football, scoring over 100 Premier League goals during Manuel Pellegrini’s title-winning season of 2013/14, but the Champions League had eluded them.
Even when they got to the semi-final against Real Madrid in 2014/15 it felt the occasion got too much for the players and the manager, and they chose to play more conservatively, only having one shot on target in each leg, eventually losing 1-0 on aggregate. The mentality for European domination seemed worlds away.
With Guardiola comes confidence, and the players have felt it. After a disastrous first season, the club have looked capable of going all the way last year and this year too. Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp were the stumbling blocks last season but their meeting at Anfield this season, despite it being a 0-0 draw, showed he’s now capable of outsmarting Klopp.
The domestic plan ran smoothly last season with only a hiccup at Wigan knocking them out of the FA Cup, but the Champions League requires a touch of fortune and experience. City’s squad are still lacking in European experience, but that’s the hill Guardiola must climb to make the club’s unprecedented heights become the norm. It’s not going to be easy, but he has to succeed.
People are still quick to point the finger at Lionel Messi as being the reason he won the two Champions Leagues he did at Barcelona, but it’s clear his management played a huge part. If he wins the European cup with City, he will have taken the club to the next level Al Mubarak speaks of.
If he doesn’t, then City will still feel as if they’re yet to arrive on the European stage.
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