It has finally happened. For the first time in their history, Manchester City have won the Champions League.
Many have said it had long been coming.
Manchester City have been one of the best teams in the world for quite some time, with even their fiercest rivals admitting as much on numerous occasions. It took a bit of time for Pep Guardiola to get his team into desired shape when he took charge of the team in 2016, but once they got going, they were the team to beat, or at least the team to play a good game against, which proved challenge enough for many even among the top opponents.
And yet, year after year, the Champions League trophy escaped their grasp. It has been said that Guardiola was brought in to earn them this triumph, and for a long time it seemed like mission impossible as Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Olympique Lyon and Real Madrid got the better of them in the knockout stages.
With each passing transfer window, the Catalan tactician made changes to improve his team, signing one fantastic player after the other. Their domination in English football in that period could hardly be disputed – they’ve been crowned the champions of the arguably best league in the world five times in the last six years. Now, after a total of seven years of trying, it’s finally done.
From a purely football perspective, City certainly deserved this triumph. There have been a few bumps on the road, but as the season progressed, their form increased and their immense quality shown the brighter with each game. In the last two rounds, they dispatched the teams that were perceived as their greatest challenge, especially Real whom they comprehensively beat in the semifinals to book the match against Inter Milan on Saturday. Though the Nerazzurri put in a strong effort to try and deny them, this time that little bit of luck they lacked in previous years was finally on their side, and they scored, and held on to their lead to the final whistle.
Shadows of the past
There have, on the other hand, been some questions about the way the newly crowned champions of Europe got to where they are. Several years ago, UEFA banned them from their competitions for two years for alleged financial wrongdoing and they successfully overturned the verdict at the Court of Arbitration for Sports.
Now, however, City face fresh 115 charges of rule-breaking of the same sort, this time from the English football authorities. Their fate in that matter is yet to be decided, despite calls from other clubs for the issues to be resolved before the end of the season – City themselves reportedly want it done as soon as possible too.
Guardiola has passionately defended his employers, feeling the accusations unjust, but the Premier League seems to feel the evidence against them overwhelming.
Leaving such matters to the relevant people, there have been some disappointments in this season’s Champions League. Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Juventus, they all hoped to do more than they did.
For some, namely Liverpool and Chelsea, the whole season was nothing short of disaster on all fronts, and their failures in UEFA’s elite competition were hardly surprising. Juventus had problems of their own, ending the Serie A campaign with a 10-point deduction which cost them a place in the Champions League next season. On the other hand, United, Barcelona, Bayern and PSG will be pleased with the way their domestic campaigns ended. United made the top four in the Premier League, while the rest won the titles in their respective leagues to earn some consolation.
Every European final this season had an Italian team playing in it, but each of them was defeated. City, of course, beat Inter Milan to lift this trophy, while Sevilla edged out AS Roma on penalties in the Europa League, and West Ham narrowly beat Fiorentina in the Conference League.
It will have come as a huge disappointment for Serie A lovers to have seen these teams come so close and fail at the final hurdle, but it should be said that they’ve definitely proven they can now play against the best from England and Spain. It remains to be seen if an Italian team can go one step further in the near future and actually win one of these trophies again.
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