It is quite likely that Manchester City will become the first-ever men’s team in English soccer history to complete a domestic treble.
But will that feat be celebrated and revered? It’s unlikely people will be shouting praise from the rooftops for Pep’s Guardiola’s side, even though they would have won five of the last six trophies available in England.
Yet Guardiola has created one of the greatest team English soccer has ever seen. They won the Premier League last season by racking up a record 100 points and they defended that title this season with another incredible total of 98 points to pip Liverpool to the trophy on the final day of the season.
They achieved that while playing mind-blowing soccer as they totally dominated opponents week in, week out by keeping the ball and unleashing their devastating attackers seemingly at will. The best compliment you can pay to City is that watching them is an event. You know you are going to be entertained and treated to incredible skill, trickery and guile when you watch them play.
But there’s a growing sense that this Man City team is so good that they are actually being under appreciated. Winning four PL titles in the last eight seasons, it’s easy to see why City winning trophies has become commonplace. But to win in the way they have done surely has to count for more, and even if that elusive UEFA Champions League title continues to evade them, they have to be considered one of the greatest teams in European history, let alone English history. If and when they win the UCL, some of the doubters will surely change their tune.
Ahead of their FA Cup final against Watford at Wembley on Saturday, Guardiola summed up the feeling surrounding Man City perfectly.
“If Liverpool win the Premier League it is an incredible achievement. Man City win and it’s ‘OK’, it is an achievement. It is what it is,” Guardiola said as he smiled. “Only thing I can say is that we won the most incredible Premier League season ever, in terms of results, in terms of competitors. We are incredibly satisfied.”
City’s fans and everyone connected with the club are more than satisfied, but remarkably the jury still seems out from the wider soccer world.
Amid yet another investigation from UEFA into alleged financial fair play breaches (the results of this latest investigation could see City banned from European competition for at least one season) there is a growing negative vibe around what City have achieved.
Of course, their incredible rise has been fuelled by the huge wealth of Sheikh Mansour and wouldn’t have been possible without that huge injection of cash. Because of that, a la PSG there always seems to be an asterisk next to City’s name when it comes to the trophies they’ve won. It is easy to splash cash and waste it (ahem, Man United), so money truly isn’t everything even at the top level. There still needs to be a plan in place and exceptionally talented individuals, such as Guardiola, to lead it.
But when we look back in 20 years time, if City do complete the domestic treble this weekend, will they go down alongside Sir Alex Ferguson‘s Manchester United teams, Bill Shankly’s legendary Liverpool squads, Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest, the best Arsenal teams under Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea (first time around) as one of the best teams in English history?
“If in 10, 15, 20 years the people talk about this team it is because we were a really good team. It is like a book or a movie which sustains its place in time that after 25 years people watch the same movie or read the same book,” Guardiola said when questioned by Pro Soccer Talk. “In maybe 25 years time people will say these guys earned a lot of points in one period but they played really well, that is because we deserved to be alongside the biggest Man United, the biggest Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal or whoever. Now is not the time…
“The big competitors are like this. They are never satisfied. They never have the feeling that it is enough. In tennis, basketball, golf, they want more and more. That is why the second title, going back-to-back, showed me this kind of thing. You know? It showed me that it was not enough to get 100 points (last season) and it could be enough. But it wasn’t. We did it. That is why we are champions.”
Pep knows that even though City are on the verge of being the most successful English team in domestic history in a single season, and doing that in a swashbuckling style, there is still a sense of ‘so what?’ about their success.