Manchester City’s wait for European glory is over
On Saturday night, Manchester City, finally, won the Champions League for the very first time, with Rodri’s strike mid-way through the second half downing Internazionale at Atatürk Olimpiyat Stadı in İstanbul.
This completed the treble for Pep Guardiola’s team, beating Manchester United in the FA Cup Final a week earlier, having put together 12 successive wins en route to the Premier League title from February until May.
The Citizens have won three successive titles, and five of the last six, completely monopolising domestic honours since Guardiola’s arrival, and now they’ve picked up the one trophy that had previously remained illusive.
Erling Braut Håland is the poster boy of this season, scoring a staggering 51 goals in just 52 games, becoming the first player to score a hat-trick in the Premier League, FA Cup and European Cup in the same season since 1985.
He ended the season with 36 Premier League goals, the most any player has managed since Ron Davies in 1967.
With Khaldoon Al Mubarak in attendance for the first time in 13 years, Saturday’s victory over Inter was a reminder that Man City remain the gold-standard when it comes to sports-washing in football.
Paris Saint-Germain are still yet to win the Champions League, reaching just one final and one semi-final during 12 years of Qatar Sports Investments ownership.
PSG have targeted superstar players, namely Zlatan Ibrahimović, Edinson Cavani, Sergio Ramos, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Neymar, Kylian Mbappé and Lionel Messi, as they bid to conquer Europe.
Man City, in contrast, have built their foundations on superstar backroom staff and coaches, specifically Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain, who lay the groundwork for Guardiola’s appointment in 2016.
Thus, with this in place, it’s more low-key signings such as Manuel Akanji, İlkay Gündoğan and match-winner Rodri who are able to shine on the biggest stage and deliver Champions League glory.
With the FA Community Shield, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup now also on their schedule, Man City could end next season with up to seven major honours, and you wouldn’t back against them upgrading this treble into a septuple would you?
Can anyone stop Pep Guardiola’s side next season?
One of Manchester City’s greatest superpowers under Pep Guardiola, which their enormous financial backing obviously facilitates, is the ability to never lose players they don’t want to whilst simultaneously moving on players at the right time.
Last summer, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus were all allowed to leave, but it turned out they coped without them just fine.
This time round, out of contract İlkay Gündoğan could be heading for the exit door, possibly joining Barcelona, or reuniting with Zinchenko, Jesus and Mikel Arteta at Arsenal.
What will happen to fellow midfielder Kalvin Phillips?
He arrived for £50 million a year ago, but started just two Premier League games, both coming after the title had been wrapped up, accumulating a measly 593 minutes overall.
Will he be one of these players who takes a year to adapt or, with a European Championships to come next summer, does he seek a move?
Riyāḍ Maḥrez has been courted by Saudi Arabia, while João Cancelo will also surely be sold, even if Bayern Munich have no intention of triggering his €55 million option to buy.
Potential incomings are far harder to discuss; Pep Guardiola’s team were almost flawless and simply unstoppable from mid-February onwards, so who on earth do you get to improve this team?
One man seemingly on his way north is Mateo Kovačić, set to join from Chelsea, potentially as a ready-made Gündoğan replacement?
Nevertheless, given that Man City could play up to 67 games next season, spread across 300 days, they’ll surely be targeting more reinforcements.