24 Nov City’s Champions League talk premature
The tide seems to be turning in Europe for Manchester City. The perennial underachievers in the Champions League have found a way to win games and impress in equal measure.
But talk of winning the tournament is still premature and it could be another five years before they are considered genuine contenders alongside Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Manuel Pellegrini’s men have already qualified for the last-16 of the competition thanks to assured performances over Sevilla and Borussia Monchengladbach and, ahead of their encounter with Juventus, it’s given the players the confidence that they can do some damage in Europe’s most prestigious competition.
None perhaps more so than Sergio Aguero.
The Argentina striker concedes Manchester City struggled with their first forays into Europe where they failed to get out of the group stages under Roberto Mancini.
“The first times were difficult, the nerves, the expectations, but now most of us have enough experience,” he told reporters.
“We have very good players who are going to do a lot for us and I think we are on the right path. There is still a lot of time to achieve things.”
Consecutive finishes in the last-16 of the tournament have given City fans cause for optimism that they have overcome the pitfalls that previously hindered their progression.
However, both times they were soundly beaten by Barcelona, and while that is certainly nothing to be ashamed of, it suggests that they aren’t ready to challenge the giants of the game just yet when it comes to down to the business end of the competition.
And that’s hardly surprising.
It takes years to build a side worthy of winning the Champions League and they only have to look at their Premier League rivals as evidence to support that stance.
Arsene Wenger has had 18 attempts at Arsenal and managed to reach the final once where they lost to Barcelona.
The Frenchman though has managed to get out of the group stages for 15 consecutive seasons – a remarkable achievement given the quality of opposition – but a timely reminder nevertheless that breaking into the top three or four at Champions League level is an altogether different proposition.
One of the greatest managers of all-time Sir Alex Ferguson had to wait until 13 years into his tenure at Old Trafford before winning the prestigious trophy with Manchester United.
And trips to the latter stages had become the norm before their incredible comeback victory against Bayern Munich in 1999. It would be a further nine more years before they got their hands on the trophy again.
Even Jose Mourinho, who won the competition with Porto and Inter, couldn’t replicate the success with Chelsea despite making their presence felt in quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals. The Blues did go on to win silverware in 2012 under Roberto Di Matteo.
So City may have discovered some form in the Champions League which could heighten their chances of progressing further but they are still nowhere near capable of winning it.