Pep Guardiola has built City’s legacy but both still want the Champions League

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<span>Photograph: Robbie Jay Barratt/AMA/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Robbie Jay Barratt/AMA/Getty Images

Seven years will be the longest period Pep Guardiola has spent managing any one club when he eventually exits Manchester City in the summer of 2023. The Catalan has confirmed his departure at the end of next season, giving the club two years to get everything they can out of their manager to leave them in the best shape possible for the long term.

Under Guardiola, the football has been electric and the number of goals scored mind-boggling all in the name of eight major trophies. Three Premier League titles have been the peak with the Champions League final defeat against Chelsea last season the closest they have come to nirvana.

Related: Manchester City open talks over signing Cristiano Ronaldo from Juventus

But the failure to secure Europe’s premier competition will irk Guardiola and the club’s hierarchy. They want the prestige of winning the competition to put them among the continent’s elite and Guardiola wants the satisfaction of being the man who inspired it in his own unique style.

He takes a lot of the blame for defeats in crucial Champions League games due to needless tinkering in the hope of outsmarting the opposition, with the results against Liverpool, Lyon and Chelsea in recent years testament to some bamboozling decisions. Players were played in unusual positions and formations were utilised for the first time by the master tactician but the result was always the same: dejection.

There will be two more chances to lift the Champions League and a failure to do so will leave Guardiola’s main ambition unfulfilled. The vast majority of fans will not have minded falling short against Chelsea in Porto – they have enjoyed a level of entertainment beyond the belief of those who sat through the lows of the 1990s and even the tedious form of success Manuel Pellegrini brought.

Ripping apart defences on a weekly basis and further cementing their place as Manchester’s dominant club, not just in terms of honours but also quality of football, will have satisfied the fanbase.

Without Guardiola, City might not have attracted some of their high-profile signings over the past five years but his personality and style could also have resulted in certain players picking City over others. The prestige of a Champions League would put City on a pedestal, a position from which they could continue to entice the very best to the club for years to come.

There is also good reason Guardiola has extended his stay in Manchester longer than his tenures at Barcelona and Bayern Munich – the club have offered him the greatest of freedoms to build a side and club in his own style, one City will hope can be maintained by his eventual replacement.

Guardiola has improved almost every player with whom he has come into contact at the Etihad Campus. Phil Foden’s development has been particularly satisfying to witness. Guardiola avoided overusing him in his teenage years, despite the clamour from the stands to see the most talented youngster to come out of the club’s academy in history to play every week.

Phil Foden (right) has grown into a player capable of taking on Europe&#x002019;s best defenders in the Champions League.
Phil Foden (right) has grown into a player capable of taking on Europe’s best defenders in the Champions League. Photograph: Reuters

Without Guardiola, Foden would still have become a fine player but thanks to his careful management, he will leave behind one of Europe’s best players with his prime years still ahead. In the meantime, Guardiola will be aiming to do similar with Cole Palmer and Sam Edozie to ensure the academy remains integral and provide another strand to his legacy.

The inability to entice Tottenham into selling Harry Kane has frustrated all at City and potentially leaves them short of firepower in order to put them in contention for another tilt at the Champions League, although a late move for Cristiano Ronaldo might change that even if his style does not quite match up with Guardiola’s preferences.

Over the next two years, plenty of the squad will still be at their peak but one area of concern is in central midfield where the veteran Fernandinho, 36, is still required in the biggest games. The Brazilian signed a new one-year contract in the summer and is likely to be a regular sight against Liverpool, Chelsea and in the latter stages of the Champions League, as recruitment has fallen short in that area, with Rodri not the like-for-like replacement some may have hoped.

Paris Saint-Germain are the closest comparison to Manchester City, based on their investment and ambitions in the hope of boosting their reputation as a football club and as wealthy states. While City lost their record goalscorer Sergio Agüero, PSG brought in Lionel Messi, Sergio Ramos and Gianluigi Donnarumma, among others.

City wanted Messi in the past and missing out on him will be a huge regret for all parties. If he makes the difference in the Champions League this season, it could be painful for Guardiola considering the success they shared together in Barcelona and what he could have brought to the Etihad Stadium to help fulfil the manager’s ambitions.

As always, Guardiola is searching for perfection and he will not want to bring the curtain down on his time in England without the trophy he set out to make his own.

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