‘We are the champions my friend, and we’ll keep on fighting to the end,’ bellowed out and sang proudly shortly after Manchester City completed the incredible treble claiming Champions League glory in Istanbul - and surely, this is just the beginning.
As the stars playing in sky blue alluded to, they’ll fight for more and to become a dominant force in European football. Achievements on the pitch are well worthy of the massive club that they’ve become. Champions of Europe - they have completed their mission.
From Maine Road to a new home in Manchester where they have lifted the Premier League trophy multiple times in the last few years, the side have ‘hacked’ how to win the 20-team domestic competition. The goalposts were moved with the aim to be a success in Europe. Istanbul, where a great English team, who have plenty of European glory, enjoyed success back in 2005, now written into Manchester City’s history as Pep Guardiola led his team to the trophy he’s worked towards and built a team for.
City followed in the footsteps of their English peers, engraving their name onto the Champions League trophy for the first time in their history, and it’s almost certain it won't be the last occasion. But, tt can’t be another ten years for Pep’s side to enjoy more European success, they’re a hungry side like match-winner Rodri said, and they’ll seek more titles to solidify themselves as one of the greatest ever teams.
If Manchester City are to see themselves as one of the greats and surround themselves in conversations about the best club ever and biggest club in history then they’ve got to dominate in this competition for years to come.
The monkey is off their back, the great pressure that will have been felt lifted, and they have the trophy that was so dearly wanted and needed for them to kick on and achieve more. City earnt the moment that they’ve craved for so long. It cannot be underestimated how much a final changes a team, the odds were stacked towards them and favoured them rightly so, but the pressure was insane. This somewhat vanishes from here forward, they've won it now, and they can play freely with no burden and expectation to claim the first success, but try and prove themselves further and claim more European glory.
Guardiola has adapted and changed his team to win this competition. Not for the Premier League, but to be successful in European football, and it’s worked. Pep changed his team to claim emphatic wins against the likes of Bayern Munich and to steamroll clubs like Real Madrid in home semi-finals when there’s so much on the line. The triumph extraordinary and Guardiola praised and commended as a ‘genius' by his players after.
You could see how much it meant to the side, as Jack Grealish couldn’t prevent the tears from falling, realising his and his side's achievements. This was a collective effort, City didn’t rely on Haaland to carry them through, they are the complete team.
However, this wonderful team that Guardiola has put together is bound to see some changes, and the work will begin very soon for the Spaniard to get his summer business done. Undoubtedly what’s next for the Manchester City squad and staff is rest, it’s needed and deserved after an incredible season. But, Pep will have to add to his strong side who are hungry and have a desire to win the competition more as players will depart. There’s transfer gossip surrounding players like Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva, Kalvin Phillips and Aymeric Laporte. Phillips, it must be noted, has averaged a trophy for every 197 minutes of football in his debut season with Manchester City, and having players of this quality on the bench so often shows the strength of the side. But, there are bound to be changes and Pep will have work to do as the evolution of the squad takes place. Seen before, the boss has been able to let one player go and then replace them with just as good if not better players to make his team more lethal. Fortunate through the wealth of his club, Guardiola hasn’t had to change much about his squad, everything they have paid for has been covered and all worth it.
The win means so much to the players and people within the club but the fans too. They’ve endured so much heartbreak over the last few years in the Champions League and finally it’s over, they’ve had their moment of glory and the celebrations and boasting rights will be prolonged. The history of Manchester City is sometimes forgotten, with great periods in the late 60’s. But, now we’re seeing a different level and a side which will be well respected in Europe for their achievement and winning the cup.
They are a European superpower, the ones to be feared. As John Stones said: “It was the thing that we were missing. We’ve set the bar high now.” Other clubs in Europe will know they have to raise their game and strengthen to challenge City. Late Saturday night in claiming the win, although not in a pretty fashion and in an emphatic way like their semi-final victory, City sent a message to the other clubs. They won’t care for how ugly the win was as their victory sends the message to everyone else that they must improve - to match and stay with them.
They are undoubtedly the strongest side in Europe and that’s shown with them lifting the cup. Now they’ll go again in not too much time due to the long season, and we’ll see how much desire they have to win the competition again. No doubt we’ll see them dominate domestically in the next term and they’ll have their sights set on a second Champions League triumph.
In sport and journalism on a whole, the winners of a final are always the ones concentrated on. Not to add, the fact they’ve completed the treble. Inter Milan’s achievements go under the radar. They weren’t expected to win the trophy and see off Guardiola’s fierce side in a final which seemed destined to go the way of the Citizens. Their fans are so proud of their side for their season, and rightly so. The heartbreak could be seen amongst the faces of the players as City celebrated at the other end of the stadium with their fans. Meanwhile, the Internazionale troops behind the goal waved their flags with pride and cheered for their heroes who gave it their all. Sometimes, your best isn’t enough and the opposition they were faced with were just too great. What Inzaghi himself and his side accomplished is to be applauded. Serious doubts will be cast over whether we’ll see them challenging for the Champions League title like they have this season in the next few years, but they can build from this season and only look to improve with their heads held high.
Although an ugly battle, that’s football sometimes, and the cruel reality is that only one team can be victorious. It went Manchester City’s way and it’ll be a win remembered for decades to come.
Congratulations to Pep Guardiola and his Manchester City side.
By Luke Powell.