Manchester City Make History in Champions League
More than half a century has elapsed since Manchester City were last in a European Final, and they have never competed in a Champions League final.
That will change in 2021, courtesy of their 4-1 aggregate victory against last year’s finalists, Paris St Germain. Pep Guardiola has finally turned domestic dominance into a European final, at the fifth time of asking. His five-year tenure has delivered an FA Cup, four League Cups, and more Premier League titles than any boss in the last decade. The only blot on his copybook was that of three quarter-final eliminations in the Champions League, a hoodoo he has now lifted, with a little slice of luck, too.
Had Kylian Mbappe not been injured for PSG, perhaps they would have offered more threat in the semi-final. Still, with Neymar, Icardi and Di Maria in the side, the latter only until his dismissal in the second half, PSG failed to get a single shot on target. It was a masterclass from Pep’s side, showing a maturity learned over four years of failure, but also the youthful exuberance of a team still progressing, with Phil Foden a key figure for the Citizens.
Why is it so important for England, as well as Manchester City, for them to be in the Champions League final? BBC Sport describe it as the owners ‘ultimate destination’, the prize they fixed their gaze on 13 years ago when they first invested in what was then Manchester’s second club. For their Abu Dhabi-based hierarchy, winning the Champions League and becoming a genuine European superpower was always the intention and for the club, achieving that is a big step up.
For England’s game as a whole, the diversity of finalists and winners remains one of Europe’s most envied stats. A Bwin graphic confirms that five Champions League winners have come from England, level with Italy but well behind Spain. However, only two clubs have claimed Spain’s 11 victories, Barcelona and Real Madrid. Italy and England have three winners each, but in terms of finalists, Manchester City become the sixth of this century after Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool. Italy, also with five wins across three winners, can only boast three.
How does that help the English game? With such diversity within the pool of finalists, and new faces stepping up all the time, it highlights how competitive the Premier League really is. That will help drive top-quality players to these shores, not just lured by the money paid out by the likes of Manchester City, but also by their genuine progression and knowing that competition is tough every week. The Premier League is perhaps as close to a European Super League as anything, with genuine behemoths of the game competing every week.
Interestingly, Manchester City also have a moral compass of sorts which makes their appearance in the Champions League final even more crucial. Having seen disturbances at Manchester United’s proposed game against Liverpool, causing it to be called off, the effect of poor ownership is being felt harder than ever before, but not at Manchester City. Their owners may have been a part of the Super League proposals, but they were also the first to pull out, and evidence of their interest in the local community can be found around the Etihad Stadium. The National News explains how the owners have invested in the local area and infrastructure, and the fact their first XI against PSG featured three players likely to represent England at Euro 2020, one a homegrown talent in Foden, further cements them as a positive force within the English game.
Indeed, it could be said that their progression in the competition is a victory for foreign owners in the Premier League who, as much as possible, understand their club, culture and the needs of their supporters. They don’t always get it right, but few can deny them, Pep and the players their big night at the Atatürk Olympic Stadium on May 29.