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Same story, same team, same problems, and Manchester City’s quest for triumph in the coveted competition was cut short. Another disappointing and unacceptable result, probably the greatest mystery in the history of the Champions League. Their heavy spending in the quest to achieve European glory has again hit a snag. After a surprise defeat in Madrid that saw them squander a two goal lead on aggregate in added time, the shocker culminated in a disappointing loss orchestrated by Rodrygo, the young Brazilian who has continued to make his mark in the Spanish capital.
As Liverpool and Real Madrid, two of the true greats of the competition, go head-to-head for the biggest prize in club football in Paris, France, the brutal and honest truth is that Manchester City do not belong in the company of elites. Not yet. Not after yet another catastrophic failure in the Champions League, when their spectacular riches were found wanting once more, as the lauded Pep Guardiola came up short in the heat of the battle. Since their Abu Dhabi funding transformed them into the dominant force in English football, the blue side of Manchester have reached just one final — last year, when Chelsea trounced them in Porto. Meanwhile, Guardiola has gone 11 years since he conquered Europe for the second time with his Lionel Messi-inspired Barcelona, despite his competitive advantage of managing at Bayern Munich and Manchester City in that time.
It is right that there be recriminations after this latest failure to deliver on this stage. Arguably, Guardiola has had the best team in Europe for the past five years, yet City continues to fail when the lights shine brightest. Manchester City are nothing if not box-office entertainment in this competition. As a two-legged semi-final, it might be the greatest in Champions League history after last week’s epic 4-3 at the Etihad and then the stunning comeback in Madrid. Previous City classics include the 4-3 against Tottenham Hotspur in 2019 and the 6-6 aggregate against Monaco three years earlier. The common theme is that Pep Guardiola ended up on the losing side despite his team being superior. Those epic clashes need to be turned into victories — just as Madrid have managed against Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and now City this season alone.
Liverpool’s credentials as comeback kings in Europe are the stuff of legend. There is an innate belief within both of these clubs (Liverpool and Real Madrid) that magic is possible in this competition and that it is not over until the final whistle goes. Conversely, City have become too accustomed to feeling sorry for themselves when fate conspires against them — and the speed with which they lost their heads and let a comfortable two-goal lead slip in the face of the Real Madrid fightback should alarm their dressing room. As is Guardiola, his team remains a long way off from being considered in the same category of the European elite as Liverpool and Real Madrid. Given the backing he has received thus far, and will continue to receive in the future, he cannot escape the blame for that fact.