Sport

CITIZENS’ AMBITION

Manchester City on cusp of joining elite list of European treble winners

Manchester City on cusp of joining elite list of European treble winners
Players of Manchester City celebrate after going 3-0 up during their Uefa Champions League semi-final, 2nd leg match against Real Madrid in Manchester, UK, on 17 May, 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE/David Rawcliffe)

Only seven teams have ever won a European continental treble. Manchester City are in with a chance to become the eighth such side. Inter Milan — one of the teams on that elite list — stand in their way.

It’s been a long and arduous journey of harsh lessons, which brought about steady progress and improvement. A seemingly bottomless pit of financial resources has also come in handy.

Once again, Manchester City are in a Uefa Champions League final. Their second in three seasons. The English champions are in pursuit of a maiden Champions League title.

Not only that, but the star-studded side is on the cusp of joining an elite group of continental treble winners should they vanquish Italy’s Inter Milan — who have been crowned kings of Europe thrice before.

Coincidentally, City’s adversaries on Saturday night in Turkey’s Istanbul are one of just seven teams in European soccer history to have won a continental treble. This specific treble encapsulates the league title, a domestic cup and the Champions League.

This is the prize that Pep Guardiola’s Citizens are yearning for following a successful defence of their English Premier League title, as well as clinching the FA Cup recently.

Should the Manchester club’s mission prove successful, they will join Inter, who won the treble under the legendary José Mourinho in 2010. City’s city rivals Manchester United are the only English club to achieve the treble feat after managing it under the tutelage of Sir Alex Ferguson in 1999.

Manchester City

Riyad Mahrez (left) of Manchester City and Antonio Ruediger of Real Madrid in action during their Uefa Champions League semi-finals, 2nd leg clash in Manchester, UK, on 17 May, 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE/David Rawcliffe)

Scottish side Celtic are also part of the elite list following a continental treble in 1967. Dutch rivals Ajax Amsterdam and PSV Eindhoven managed the rare achievement in 1972 and 1988 respectively.

Barcelona and Bayern Munich stand on their own on the prestigious list — with two trebles each under their belts. Ironically, the Spaniards won it with Guardiola in 2009.

Though the Catalans repeated the trick under the guidance of Luis Enrique six years later, it remains Guardiola’s sole continental treble. The Spanish tactician did guide City to a domestic treble in 2019.

Then they secured the league title, the Carabao Cup and the FA Cup. They remain the only English side to complete such a clean sweep domestically.

If his City team, which heads into the final as a heavy favourite, manages to navigate past the tenacious Inter — Guardiola will make history. He will become the only manager with more than one continental treble to his name.

“One more to come, one more to go and we feel it that we are in a position we probably will never be again,” Guardiola, who has turned City into a domestic powerhouse since arriving in 2016, winning 11 trophies, said recently.

“Everything will not be complete if we don’t win the Champions League now. We have had some incredible seasons.”

Manchester City

Bernardo Silva of Manchester City celebrates after scoring his club’s second goal during their Uefa Champions League semi-final, 2nd leg match against Real Madrid in Manchester, UK, on 17 May, 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE/David Rawcliffe)

The big fish

When United Arab Emirates politician Sheikh Mansour bought the reins of ownership at the club back in the European summer of 2008 and proceeded to spend hundreds of millions of pounds in transfer fees over the subsequent seasons, he had one thing on his mind — European glory.

However, despite firmly asserting their domestic dominance since then, this particular prized possession has proven to be extremely elusive. In their debut Champions League final appearance — which came in 2021 — they botched the opportunity to be crowned Europe’s best by losing 1-0 to underdogs Chelsea.

However, after City’s semifinal 5-1 aggregate demolition of serial Champions League winners Real Madrid to reach the 2023 final, the Manchester club and its wealthy owners can dream once more.

Though according to the experienced Guardiola, this time they are remaining extremely calm and focusing on the job at hand.

“With our club, I’ve learnt that overexcitement doesn’t suit us. We will travel there to accomplish a dream, [and] we will try to have a good game and win the final,” Guardiola told Uefa.com

“We know we had a chance two years ago. Then we didn’t make it [to the final] by the narrowest margin last year. We are there again this year and will try to give our best.” DM

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