Manchester City knew who they wanted to lead them into a new era. They’d known for quite some time, even tailoring certain aspects of the club to ready themselves for the eventual arrival of their chosen one. Indeed, City’s pursuit of Pep Guardiola can be traced back years before his actual appointment.
There were a number of reasons they wanted Guardiola. The Catalan coach brought with him his famed philosophy has since turned Man City into the most dynamic, exciting team in the Premier League. But they also wanted Guardiola because of his European record.
Guardiola is a two-time Champions League winner and so when the time came for City to identify the man who could establish them as a true European force, they settled on the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss. Three years have passed since then, though, and Guardiola hasn’t been able to deliver the title the club’s ownership wants more than any other.
In fact, Guardiola hasn’t been able to take City past the quarter finals of the Champions League. They reached the semi finals the season before Guardiola took over. For all that the Catalan has undoubtedly developed and progressed the Etihad Stadium side, his European failures stand out.
The Champions League is the final frontier for both City and Guardiola. As things stand, there’s an argument to be made that they are the greatest Premier League team of all time, collecting 198 points over the past two seasons, but they have still to make a real impression in Europe, even after the best part of a £1 billion investment in the squad over a decade.
Guardiola needs Champions League results this season. City should have beaten Tottenham in the competition’s quarter finals last season and they should have beaten Liverpool the season before that and Monaco in the round of 16 the season before that. Guardiola still has a point to prove in Europe as City manager.
A kind group stage draw, which saw the Premier League champions drawn with Shakhtar Donetsk, Atalanta and Dinamo Zagreb, will give City a platform to build a challenge upon, but it’s in the knockout rounds where they must demonstrate progress. Otherwise Guardiola’s astonishing success at the Etihad Stadium will come with an asterisk alongside. With every season the Champions League trophy isn’t delivered, it gets bigger.
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