Why Manchester City still have more hurdles to face

Money was not enough. It never will be. PSG spent heavily last summer, destroying the French transfer record fee with the signing of Javier Pastore—yet they still couldn’t cut it. Money wasn’t enough.

With Manchester City, they really got going much earlier than PSG and Malaga (if we’re counting them at this point). There’s that initial phase of buying up fairly decent players from all sorts of clubs in an attempt to show others that you’re the new muscle in town. Again, however, money wasn’t enough.

The Premier League title victory last season was the effort of three solid years and the ambitious spending that only City, along with two or three others, will now be able to pull off consistently. They had the fantastic infrastructure: The stadium, a good youth setup, superstar players, and a manager good enough to hold it all together. But they needed that Premier League title. They needed it more than Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United wanted to stop them. It’s imperative that Manchester City were not just seen as an entertaining rock band, but rather a club that needed to be taken seriously outside of the two transfer windows. The Premier League was as big a statement of intent than any signing could make.

But going forward, their cycle begins all over again. The new target is Champions League glory and a firm place alongside the greats of European football. But again this summer, money won’t be enough.

Manchester City have shown what they can do in a domestic league where they comfortably had the most impressive squad and the most lethal attacking force. Or did they? The title wasn’t won on the last day of the season, but rather the last few seconds of the season. They led then surrendered. They broke up then reunited. But above all, they struck genuine fear into the minds of the fearless. Manchester United have never known another team like them. It took Chelsea almost a decade after Roman Abramovich arrived to land the Champions League. Further proof that money just simply is not enough.

But City have already shown that they are not wholly impressive on the European stage, taking a swift boot out of the Europe’s secondary competition by a Portuguese team, and allowing a now-relegated Spanish club to give them a real go during the Champions League group stage.

Those efforts—poor considering the talent in the City squad—will need to be doubled and then tripled when the knock-out stage comes around next time. The team will need to find a balance in succeeding in the Premier League once again, being sure not to be just a one season flash in the pan—as unlikely as that is—and genuinely pushing for relevance in Europe.

At this stage, Manchester City are not relevant in Europe. Their spending power and recent domestic history might suggest otherwise to the odds table, but they haven’t done anything yet to be considered a real threat to the Barcelonas and Real Madrids.

It would be extremely foolish and naïve if City were to believe that next year is their year in Europe. As other examples have shown, domestic triumphs rarely count for much when it comes to the unpredictable and mentally draining Champions League. There’s also very little to suggest that it won’t take City another three or more years to be champions of Europe—they’re hardly the undisputed kings of the Premier League.

What would be impressive is the club taking that next step at home, becoming back-to-back champions and justifying their spending. Yes they may get lucky—and there is a great deal of luck that goes into winning the Champions League; but there’s also a need for ruthless consistency. Up until this point, they haven’t exuded that level of aggression on the continent.

Spending will come and it will play it’s part, as will the outstanding talents already at the club that are capable of playing leading roles in the drive for glory. But Manchester City were not runaway Premier League champions as Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea were. They also didn’t go the season unbeaten as many suggested they could. Yet neither Mourinho’s side nor Arsene Wenger’s invincibles were able to transfer their domestic glory onto the European stage.

Going into next season and beyond, City will need to prove that they have enough about themselves to be a major contender in Europe, as well as guarding their English throne. There will be setbacks and they may even get completely outclassed by Barcelona, allowing the Catalans to remind them of their place. But their status certainly doesn’t warrant immediate success in Europe following domestic glory—their ability to spend heavily is just not enough.

 


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