There must be a defining moment for athletic greatness to be attained.
Manchester City’s Atatürk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul was the place on Saturday where an obsession finally materialized and history was made.
Winning the major cup competition in Europe has been the club’s ultimate goal ever since Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan and the Abu Dhabi United Group acquired ownership of the organization in 2008.
After spending hundreds of millions of dollars and being the subject of criticism over the past 15 years, the club has finally won the Champions League after defeating Inter Milan 1-0 in a game that will be remembered more for the significance of the outcome than for the actual play.
This was not just the night when City won the Champions League for the first time. Pep Guardiola’s team defeated three-time champion Inter to win the Premier League, FA Cup, and Champions League in the same season, making them just the second English team to do it.
The first team to do so was Manchester United in the 1998–1999 season, and while it is pointless to compare teams from different periods, current City team is unquestionably just as dominating at home as that Alex Ferguson–led United squad, having won five league titles in six seasons.
The current challenge is to amass titles as mercilessly in Europe. After all, those that consistently win the competition are remembered and celebrated the most.
It was a game with limited opportunities but lots of suspense.
For City, Bernardo Silva came near in the opening five minutes. For Inter, Erling Haaland had his finest opportunity of the game in the 26th minute, forcing André Onana to make a diving save.
The Norwegian’s effort came a few minutes after Nicol Barella saw City goalkeeper Ederson off his line and shot at goal but misfired horribly on his first attempt.
That was as good as it got in the first half as City had a ton of possession but little to show for Inter’s intense, aggressive pressure.
The second half was just as tense, with City continuing to look for gaps and Inter continuing their excellent defense. Inter could have at least scored twice after Rodri gave City the lead in the 68th minute with a curling first-time shot from a Bernardo Silva cut-back that beat many Inter players.
Romelu Lukaku was struck by Federico Dimarco’s follow-up shot from six yards out after his header hit the crossbar. Ederson made a diving save to deny Lukaku a header in the last seconds, giving City the victory and the trophy.
Sheikh Mansour, who was at just his second City game on Saturday, wrote an open letter to the supporters of the team in September 2008, telling them that the owners were ambitious but “not unreasonably so,” understanding that it took time to build a team, a club that could contend for league titles and European trophies.
Within four years, the Premier League had been taken over, and a first championship had been snatched away from Manchester United on the season’s final day. This marked the beginning of an era of domination that is still going strong today.
Sheikh Mansour, who attended only his second City game on Saturday, wrote an open letter to the team’s fans in September 2008, telling them that the owners were ambitious but “not unreasonably so,” understanding that it took time to build a team, a club that could compete for league titles and European trophies.
Within four years, the Premier League had been taken over, and on the final day of the season, Manchester United had lost their first championship. This signaled the start of a period of dominance that is still in effect today.
Guardiola’s appointment in 2016 was supposed to transform City’s fortunes in the Champions League, but it was the purchase of Haaland last summer that really cemented City’s dominance in Europe. This week, the striker acknowledged that he was acquired to aid in the victory of this contest. He claimed that he “feels the pressure.” Though he was kept out of the goal in Istanbul by Inter’s defense, it hasn’t been evident on the field during a season in which he has scored an amazing 52 goals.
The Norwegian’s goals have been crucial in making what Guardiola called a “dream” and a “obsession” in the lead-up to the game a reality. Yet Guardiola himself is the driving force behind the triumph.
It is incredible to think that in 1999, this club was competing in the third division of English football and was having trouble even winning games, let alone titles. The path to this unforgettable evening in Istanbul was prepared by the club’s Abu Dhabi owners’ investment in 2003 and the relocation of the stadium to the location that is now known as the Etihad.
Will City continue its Premier League dominance in the Champions League? The first might be the first of many under Guardiola’s direction. He is the only manager to win the treble twice after first accomplishing the feat with Barcelona and is widely regarded as the best manager in the history of the game. Many of his players have also referred to him as a genius.
However, there may be trouble ahead after the Premier League in February charged City with more than 100 financial rule violations and referred the team to an impartial commission. City says it did nothing wrong and that it was “surprised by the issuing of these alleged breaches.”
If found guilty, it might result in a suspension from the league, a loss of points, or an unlimited fine, according to the league’s rules.
There is no doubt that the team Guardiola has put together is one of the best in history, regardless of the commission’s conclusions, which could take years to come to light, and whether or not success has a catch or not.
On Saturday, all thoughts were focused on applauding this season’s success. Jack Grealish, the most expensive British footballer in history, was overcome with emotion and found it difficult to speak during his on-field interview with live television.
“You dedicate your entire life to achieving this. Right now, I’m really delighted,” he gushed to BT Sport. “Today I played so poorly, but I don’t care. It is really exceptional to achieve the Triple with this team of players.
“I have dedicated my entire life to achieving this. My family is among the crowd, and seeing them there really gets me emotional to all the people who have supported you along the path.
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