MANCHESTER, England – Manchester City are the best team in Europe and therefore automatically the best in the world and whatever happens in the Champions League final against Inter Milan on June 10 will not change that. Just ask Real Madrid, the reigning European champions who were defeated 4-0 in the semi-final second leg at the Etihad Stadium.
But no one wants to be remembered as the best team never to win European competitions, so Inter had better brace themselves for the toughest game of their lives against City in Istanbul next month. Man City are on their way to sporting immortality under manager Pep Guardiola.
With City still appealing 115 charges of breaching Premier League rules between 2009 and 2018, history may yet see this side’s achievements from a different perspective, but for now, their football is the only barometer by which they are measured can become. And after Manchester City dethroned Real with a brutal display of dominance and ruthless efficiency in Madrid last week, Manchester City have emerged as the new kings of Europe.
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It was a defeat on par with Real Madrid’s biggest ever Champions League defeat, which came at Anfield in 2008/09 against Liverpool. Every single City player dominated their Real Madrid opponents and if they were looking for revenge for last season’s dramatic semi-final defeat by coach Carlo Ancelotti’s side, they secured it.
It was like watching the world heavyweight champion punch aside a hopeless challenger. But Real Madrid isn’t a beacon of hope – it’s Real Madrid. This was a night where Kevin De Bruyne, John Stones, Kyle Walker, Ruben Dias, Rodri, Jack Grealish and Bernardo Silva, the two-goal hero in the first half, produced ten out of ten performances and the world-class opponents went into the swayed .
No team can live with City right now. They have won 19 of their last 23 games and lost none of them. Three wins in three competitions are now enough to secure the so-called triple.
Inter Milan could yet unleash one of their biggest upsets of all time by beating Man City at Istanbul’s Ataturk Stadium next month, but no one could argue that that would make Simone Inzaghi’s side any better than Guardiola’s. The Nerazzurri would simply have the small detail of a huge silver trophy as a reward for winning a single game.
Perhaps that’s a bit oversimplified, but Guardiola has already done what Manchester City’s Abu Dhabi-based owners asked him to do when he was appointed manager in 2016. The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach has been hired to make City the best team in Europe and the world. He can tick that box but nobody at Etihad will really believe it or feel it until the European Cup is in the club’s trophy cabinet.
City lost to Chelsea in their only Champions League final in Porto in 2021 but this time the momentum of Guardiola’s side seems unstoppable.
“To be honest, a final against an Italian team is not the best gift,” said Guardiola. “She [Inter] are competitive. This win will bring a lot of compliments, but we have time to prepare mentally. When you reach the final of the Champions League, you have to celebrate. Unfortunately we don’t have time because on Sunday we can win the Premier League. Tomorrow we will be with our families and then prepare for Sunday.”
For now, forget the talk about the heights. There is plenty of time to analyze City’s prospects of winning the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League before next month’s final.
The Premier League is practically in the bag, with Guardiola’s players needing just three points from three games to win the title for a third straight year, while Manchester United – the only English club to have achieved the treble before that in 1999 – between Man City and Glory in the FA Cup Final on June 3rd. When Manchester City reach Istanbul a week later and need to beat three-time European champions Inter to win their first Champions League, their success is inevitable.
How good are Man City? Well they are set to win their fifth Premier League title in six seasons within the next 10 days and are heavy favorites to beat Man United in the FA Cup final at Wembley. The Champions League has eluded them, but that performance against Real was perhaps the most one-sided performance by a side at this level since Guardiola’s defeat of Barcelona United in the 2011 Champions League final.
Incidentally, the 2011 final was the period when Guardiola’s legendary Barca side were at their peak, as Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta sent United on what manager Sir Alex Ferguson called a ‘passing carousel’. Barca were so good that United couldn’t get the ball – and Real Madrid had a similar experience on Wednesday, with Man City dominating possession with 60%.
When Real Madrid winger Vinicius Junior tried to run past Kyle Walker in the first half, it looked like the Brazil international was the favorite to win. But Walker somehow turned the tide in his favor, defeating Vinicius with his strength. The “Real” star looked helpless and turned to Ancelotti as if to say, “What could I do?”
It was a theme that ran through the Real Madrid team. They were all helpless to fend off Man City’s waves of attacking and endless possession, as full-back Dani Carvajal said: “We played a rival who was better than us in that game – they pretty much overwhelmed us.”
Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was perhaps the only Real Madrid player to come off after beating City. The former Chelsea No. 1 made a number of key saves, most notably against Erling Haaland as Real tried to weather the storm.
But that was emphatically City’s night, and it will be their season. It just depends on how many trophies they win.