The Spaniard has backed his big-money stars after their Champions League heartbreak
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola says that his team’s heartbreaking Champions League exit at the hands of Real Madrid doesn’t mean that his team should be considered failures.
The Spaniard’s charges were on the verge of qualifying for what would have been their second successive Champions League final before two late goals from Madrid’s Brazilian star Rodrygo sent the game to extra time.
Karim Benzema completed the thrilling finale with a penalty to send Madrid to the the final in Paris, where they will take on City’s domestic rivals Liverpool – but as he dissected the manner of the stunning come-from-behind defeat, Guardiola has determined that he couldn’t have asked any more of his team.
“We didn’t speak with the players – no words can help for what all of us feel,” he said, adding that the players had been given time to digest the defeat.
“It is just a question of time, sleep as well as possible and think of the next target.”
Man City have been one of a handful of mega-rich European clubs to be branded as having bought their way into the footballing elite on the back of rich ownership – but Guardiola insists that delivering trophies is secondary to building a healthy football club.
“I have the feeling that the people from Abu Dhabi bought this club and invested in these incredible facilities and players – like a lot of other clubs in the world – to not just win the Champions League,” he said.
“The club never asked me to win any title, they asked me to play as good as possible, to compete with all the teams in England and in Europe. It is completely the opposite to what people think.
“Maybe I’m not good enough to help the team to do it. Nobody knows what would have happened with other players or managers.
“People say if this group of players won’t win the Champions League they will be failures. I accept it. I completely disagree, in sport we know how difficult everything is, but I accept it. I’m not going to make a debate about who is right or wrong.”
Guardiola added that these types of narratives are commonplace when a team suffers a big loss – but they don’t take in the small details which could have led to a different result.
“When we win the Champions League, and hopefully we do it, it will because of the money we spend. Never will it be for the work done behind the scenes. We are the only club in the world in the last 10, 15 or 20 years that spend money,” he explained.
“Now people say it’s lack of character. Lack of character? What happens if Jack Grealish scores those two goals? What is the character? At Atletico Madrid whenCorrea shot and Ederson saves, now it’s character. If Correa scores it’s not character.
“I know the people outside of here demand just Champions League, Champions League, Champions League. We know it.
“We were close – they know it, we know it – but what is important is we are going to try again next season, and then again, and in the Premier League. We have the Premier League in our hands.
“Now we are a bit sad but they will be memories, we lived them. Lifting trophies is so nice – but the difference between winners and losers is only small. You play with emotions, and emotions are uncontrollable.”
Guardiola and City must now rouse themselves for the remainder of their Premier League title tussle with Liverpool.
City are one point ahead of their rivals with four games to play, and host Newcastle at the Etihad on Sunday.
By that point, Liverpool could have overtaken them in the table as the Reds meet Tottenham at Anfield on Saturday evening.