Guardiola claims Champions League 'not an obsession' for Man City and backs Grealish to impress

·4-min read

Pep Guardiola insisted winning the Champions League is "not an obsession" for Manchester City, as he refuted suggestions European success could determine whether he stays at the Etihad Stadium.

Meanwhile, Guardiola has backed Jack Grealish for a successful second campaign with the club, praising his contribution to last season's Premier League title win.

Guardiola's team have won four of the last five Premier League titles and are heavily fancied ahead of the 2022-23 campaign after recruiting Erling Haaland and Kalvin Phillips during a busy transfer window.

However, City are yet to experience European success under Guardiola, with last term's humiliating Champions League semi-final collapse against Real Madrid representing the latest of several near misses on the continental stage.

But the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach, who has just one year remaining on his City contract, insists the absence of a Champions League title will not impact any decision on his future.

"It's not about that. I would like to win it, it's not an obsession, it's a dream, a target we can do," Guardiola said ahead of Sunday's trip to West Ham.

"I'm completely aware how good the opponents are and how difficult this competition is. I said many times, maybe people don't believe me or think I'm making an excuse, I didn't come here to win the Champions League.

"I'm the first to want it, [but] it was the same in Munich. In Barcelona we won it twice, I wanted to win four! The 30 or 40 seasons where I'm a manager, I want to win every single Champions League, [but] I don't feel a failure when we don't win it.

"We want it, but if we win it I'm not the master of the universe. We tried, we were closer last season, we will try this season.

"Improving the team, playing better, this is main reason I'm here. I'm sad because we lost the Community Shield, but especially because we didn't play as we can do. The only thing I'm here for is to make the team play better, to see the team, watch on the touchline and say, 'I like it'.

"The consequence is to win or lose, we are going to lose sooner or later the Premier League. Nothing is eternal, not even this team that has done many good things in the last years. To win four Premier Leagues in five years is something extraordinary.

"We can improve. We can do better, this is the only reason [I'm here]. I'm not leaving here [saying] 'I have to win the Premier League, what happens if I lose the Premier League?'"

As City successfully defended the Premier League title last season, only Kevin De Bruyne (87) and Bernardo Silva (59) created more chances than Grealish (53) for Guardiola's men in all competitions.

Jack Grealish scored just three Premier League goals last season
Jack Grealish scored just three Premier League goals last season

However, the England international has faced criticism from some quarters after registering just eight goals and four assists in all competitions following a club-record move from Aston Villa.

But Guardiola insists Grealish's contribution was vital to City's triumph last term and wants to see more from all of his attacking stars, not only the 26-year-old. 

"The most important thing you have to know is Jack Grealish won the Premier League. That's why we bought him, to help us to win the Premier League, and we did it," Guardiola said.

"Jack is incredibly loved in the locker room, he's incredibly humble. Of course, I want more, but not just for Jack, for everyone.

"Of course, I definitely want more, he has to fight because the competition up front is so big, we have really good players.

"We're optimistic because he arrived very well, we know they have the World Cup around the corner, Gareth [Southgate] has to make big selections because there are many good players in the England team, and everybody knows what they have to do."

Grealish will likely assume a more important role after the departures of fellow attackers Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling, and Guardiola believes a refresh of his title-winning squad was necessary.

"Always I thought that after five or six years together, we need to change. Changing the manager is an option, or to change a few players, always," he added.

"To the old players, it's normal, new players bring new energies, new desire. You have to take decision always before it's going to happen. Always the intention is to get better."