A watershed moment is required for a sports hero to emerge. On Saturday, the Atatürk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul was Manchester City’s, the site where a dream came true and a chapter in the club’s history was written.
Winning Europe’s top cup tournament has been the club’s primary goal ever since Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan and the Abu Dhabi United Group acquired ownership in 2008.
The club has spent hundreds of millions of dollars and been embroiled in a scandal over the past 15 years, but after a thrilling 1-0 victory over Inter Milan, they can finally call themselves Champions League champions.
This was more than just the night City won the Champions League for the first time. Only two English teams have ever won the Premier League, FA Cup, and Champions League in the same season; Pep Guardiola’s squad became the second by defeating three-time champion Inter.
Although comparing teams from different eras is pointless, the current City squad is as dominating domestically as the United team of Alex Ferguson, having won five league titles in six seasons. The first team to achieve so was Manchester United in the 1998/99 season.
Getting as many European crowns as quickly as possible is the next challenge. After all, repeat winners are the ones who get the most attention and praise.
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The contest had limited scoring opportunities but lots of drama.
In the first five minutes, City’s Bernardo Silva came near, and in the 26th, Erling Haaland had his best chance of the match, requiring a low save from Inter custodian André Onana.
Minutes earlier, City custodian Ederson was caught off his line and Nicol Barella took advantage, but his first-time shot went horribly wide.
City had plenty of possession but failed to produce any tangible results in the first half due to Inter’s high-energy, relentless pressing.
The tension remained high in the second half, with Inter maintaining their stout defense and City pressing forward in search of chances. Rodri scored the game-winning goal for City in the 68th minute when his curling first-time effort off a Bernardo Silva cut-back evaded many Inter defenders.
Federico Dimarco had a header go over the bar, and then he tried again from six yards out, but this time he hit Romelu Lukaku. Ederson made a game-winning save in the waning seconds when he blocked a Lukaku header from inside the six-yard box.
Sheikh Mansour, who attended his second City game on Saturday, wrote an open letter to City fans in September 2008, assuring them that the club’s owners were ambitious but “not unreasonably so,” realizing that it would take time to build a team, a club that could challenge for league titles and European trophies.
A first title was won in the Premier League within four years, snatching it away from Manchester United in the waning seconds of the final day of the season to launch an era of domination that continues to this day.
City’s Champions League Win Caps Off Historic Season
However, it has taken longer than many would have guessed to achieve success in Europe. Despite their wealth, City has consistently been eliminated by Monaco (2017), Liverpool (2018), Tottenham (2019), Lyon (2020), Chelsea (2021), and Real Madrid (2022) in the Champions League quarterfinals and semifinals. “This competition is so difficult to win,” Guardiola said to BT Sport after the game.
City’s acquisition of Haaland last summer has made them formidable in Europe, despite the fact that Guardiola’s arrival in 2016 was supposed to reverse their fortunes in the Champions League. This week, the striker himself stated that he was purchased to assist the team win the tournament. He admitted that he “feels the pressure.” However, it hasn’t shown on the pitch as he has scored an incredible 52 goals this season, although he was held scoreless in Istanbul due to Inter’s stout defensive effort.
The goals scored by the Norwegian have been crucial in making a reality of what Guardiola called a “dream” and an “obsession” before the game. However, Guardiola is the driving force behind their success.
It’s hard to think that in 1999, this team was competing in England’s third division, where they were having trouble winning games, let alone championships. This historic night in Istanbul was made possible by a transfer to a new stadium in 2003 (now called the Etihad) and subsequent investment from the club’s Abu Dhabi owners.
Will Manchester City be able to repeat its Premier League dominance in the Champions League? Many have named Guardiola the best manager in the game’s history, and his players have labeled him a genius. He is the first manager to win the triple twice, having previously accomplished the feat with Barcelona.
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City Officials “Surprised” by Financial Impropriety Allegations
But in February, the Premier League accused City of more than 100 violations of the league’s finance regulations and referred the club to an independent commission, suggesting that stormy weather may be on the horizon. In response to allegations of impropriety, City officials said they were “surprised by the issuing of these alleged breaches.”
If found guilty, penalties might include expulsion from the league, loss of points, or an unlimited fine.
Whether or not success is qualified, there is no denying that the team Guardiola has assembled is one of the best in history. The commission’s conclusions might take years.
On Saturday, everyone was focused solely on the accomplishments of this season. Jack Grealish, the most expensive British player in history, was visibly emotional during his live, televised on-pitch interview and stuttered through his answers.
This is the moment you’ve been waiting for your whole life. He later told BT Sport, “Right now, I’m so happy.” Not caring that I played horribly today. That this team was able to win the treble is very remarkable.
This is the culmination of my life’s efforts. Seeing my loved ones in the audience brings tears to my eyes as I think of all the people who have helped me along the journey.