Man City – Not one of Europe’s elite, but that could change soon

It was tight, it was very close and only a lucky deflection saw Real Madrid go through, but it did cause fans to think.

Brave, City were, and they achieved far more than some said they would, but like Bayern Munich in the other tie, there was something missing. Just a little piece of the jigsaw that takes semi-finalists all the way to Champions League winners.

No doubt Pep Guardiola will be hoping that he can go that step further with Man City, once they are formally confirmed as participants next season.

City are the new rich kids on the block and Real represented the old school. Much of the build-up to the game, in the Spanish press at least, had looked at how the European Cup’s most successful ever team were being challenged by recently arrived upstarts who had spent big through recent years, but had little history in the competition.

They lack history in Europe, but one thing City aren’t devoid of is the finance. They can go toe-to-toe with Europe’s best and they have signed some stellar names, but are those players enough? At the back, City looked frail on Wednesday night, with balls being passed through their defence like a hot knife through butter.

The managers at the Etihad have largely been top class achievers elsewhere, but the announcement that Guardiola is on his way might take City’s situation to the next level. Time will tell.

Last time out, City never really looked likely to get to the final. At no point in this tie did they ever look likely to really hurt Real. Back at the Bernabeu, where he had such a hard time of it as coach in 2009/10, Pellegrini appeared in denial during his post-match news conference. The Chilean claimed that his side had been just as good as Madrid, and doubted the official UEFA statistics that showed Madrid had 15 attempts at goal (five on target) to City’s four (zero on target).

Maybe City missed David Silva and Samir Nasri? Just as in the first leg last week, City’s top scorer Sergio Aguero was well marshalled by markers Pepe and Sergio Ramos, Kevin De Bruyne struggled to get into the game and Yaya Toure looked well off the pace on his return from injury. Maybe it was a combination of factors and not just that a particular segment of the team functions less effectively than any other part.

To win anything, you come across the best at some point, but drawing a Spanish side was unfortunate, as La Liga sides are dominant right now. Spanish clubs are now 16/15 against teams from other countries in UEFA knockout rounds this season. They are 18-2 up in their past 18 meetings with Premier League opponents, and have won 45 of their past 49 two-legged ties against rivals from across the full continent.

So, is the gap the leagues? There is always serious debate over which league is more entertaining, but in La Liga, three teams dominate, whereas in the Premier League, at least for this season, it has been entirely unpredictable, although more stable in previous years.

A year ago, City’s captain, Vincent Kompany, was quoted as saying: “You have to look at what are Bayern Munich, what are Barcelona. They are not just Champions League-winning teams, they are World Cup-winning teams as well. They have generations that have played together a long time.”

Guardiola will be the beginning of plugging the gap with the elite. With a top class manager, City will re-build and put together a number of individual talents that are able to play as a team.

It may not be next year, but within two seasons, that gap will be virtually non-existent and City will start to write their name into Champions League history.