Saturday July 02, 2022

Fuelled by Premier League dynasty, City crave CL legacy

May 24, 2022

LONDON: Manchester City’s latest Premier League title triumph established the champions as a burgeoning dynasty, but Pep Guardiola won’t be satisfied until their domestic bliss becomes the catalyst to conquer Europe.

City’s fourth title in five seasons is arguably the greatest achievement of Guardiola’s glittering career as he found a way to hold off Liverpool’s relentless challenge by one point.

“The magnitude of our achievement is because of the magnitude of this rival,” said Guardiola. “Never ever I had a rival like Liverpool in my career as a football player or manager.” But even Jurgen Klopp’s men, in the midst of one of the best seasons in their history, were unable to surpass City, leaving them with just one Premier League title in 32 years.

Lauding his players’ remarkable staying power, Guardiola said: “You cannot be here over the last five years if you don’t have that resilience. “We have the desire to win. To win titles, especially the Premier League, is not just how good we are with the ball.”

Nothing resembled that resilience more than the manner of City’s latest title triumph. Losing 2-0 to Aston Villa with 15 minutes to go, City rallied in remarkable fashion to score three times in five minutes.

Yet, while Guardiola celebrates the ninth major prize of his six-year City reign, Klopp will be planning to add another chapter to Liverpool’s rich Champions League history. Liverpool face Real Madrid in the Champions League final on May 28 and Guardiola would dearly love to swap places with Klopp in Paris.

Since winning the second of his two Champions League crowns with Barcelona on 2011, Guardiola’s relationship with Europe’s elite club competition has been scarred by one agonising failure after another.

This season was no different as City crashed to a devastating semi-final exit against Real Madrid, blowing a 5-3 aggregate lead in the final seconds of normal time before losing in the extra period.

That heartache at the Bernabeu came a year after City’s limp loss to Chelsea in their first ever Champions League final. With that in mind, Guardiola knows City cannot afford to stand still if they are to finally triumph in Europe and keep Liverpool at bay in the Premier League.

A £51.5 million ($63 million) swoop for Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland earlier in May was the opening salvo in their bid to achieve those two targets. Haaland scored a remarkable 86 goals in 89 games for Dortmund and appears an ideal fit for City.

The 21-year-old son of former City defender Alfie Haaland will arrive in time for next season, bringing his elite predatory instincts and physical presence to a City attack lacking both those qualities despite their success.