Why Manchester City should prioritise the Champions League
Picture the scene. You’ve won your first Premier League title. Your team has played magnificent football, the best the league has seen in decades. They've set numerous records along the way. You’ve also won the League Cup. Why are you unhappy? The darned Champions League, that's why. Welcome to Pep Guardiola's world.
Amid celebration and happiness at their sumptuous Premier League success, the Citizens could not shake their disappointment. European glory was well within in their grasp. How could they lose to Liverpool three times?
City played the best football in Europe. They were touted to take the title from Real Madrid. Instead, they exited in the quarterfinal while Liverpool came within a sly Sergio Ramos elbow and hip toss of reaching the same goal. Was the former Barcelona manager more upset that Real Madrid won again or that Jurgen Klopp continued to have his number?
This season, there's one trophy on Guardiola's mind. Indeed, for the entire squad, the Champions League is more important than the Premier League.
While Pep is one of two managers to win the competition twice this century, he has not made it to the final since his second triumph in 2011. In the interim, he's reached the semifinals four times with Bayern Munich, the last 16 and quarters with City. He needs to prove the game hasn't left him behind.
The Bavarian giants hired Guardiola to re-establish themselves as a European force. He only delivered domestic titles. Many began to wonder whether Guardiola is all that special?
Pep has never won the Champions League without Lionel Messi. Doing so will put the doubts to bed. His City squad possesses the talent and depth necessary.
Winning the Champions League is a matter of prestige. Domestic titles do not make you an elite club. City wish to occupy that level; the Champions League is the lone path to reach their objective.
Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester United are the elite. They've won the Champions League at least twice this century and continue to contend. Milan also won two but have fallen out of contention.
Paris Saint Germain and Juventus are further proof of the need for European success in the modern era. Juve own multiple titles, contend consistently, but last won in 1996. Meanwhile, Borussia Dortmund Porto, Liverpool, Inter and Chelsea all put their names on the trophy.
It is why the Bianconeri spent so heavily to sign Cristiano Ronaldo. He is the man to get them over the final hurdle.
The same can be said of PSG in some way. They have never won the competition but consider themselves a big club. The rest of Europe merely sees uber-rich wannabes. The Parisians spent a fortune on Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and a plethora of other superstars to change perception. Even so, until they win the Champions League, nothing will change.
The similarity between City and PSG's ownership goes beyond their Arab roots. Neither group bought their club to dominate the domestic market. They crave European supremacy for the respect and legitimacy that comes with it.
For City, triumph would also celebrate Sheikh Mansour's tenth year in charge. The Champions League would be his crowning glory.
Of course, it's no easy feat, no matter how Real Madrid's three-year run makes it appear. The Sky Blues must be at their best and then some to give themselves a chance. Until they achieve that level, questions will be asked.