Pep Guardiola is proud of Manchester City’s Champions League triumph last season but stated it is “nothing special” compared with winning the trophy on multiple occasions, and so he has urged his team to win back‑to‑back titles.
City secured European football’s biggest prize for the first time with victory against Internazionale in Istanbul in May. They begin their defence with the visit of Red Star Belgrade on Tuesday and Guardiola wants his players to focus on emulating Real Madrid, who in 2017 and 2018 became the only team to retain the European Cup since Arrigo Sacchi’s Milan in 1990, in the pre‑Champions League era.
Ferran Soriano, City’s chief executive, said last week that “people are relaxed” at the club in regards to this aim. When that comment was put to Guardiola, he offered a rather different response. “He feels [this]? Important is that the players don’t feel relaxed. The board and chairman [Khaldoon al-Mubarak] and CEO are relaxed – that’s good. They don’t play.
Despite the rarity of the feat, Guardiola believes retaining the trophy should not be so hard.
“It’s easier. It’s most difficult to win the first one. It’s something incredible for us, the first time in history, but it’s just once. Let’s go. Let’s try to win tomorrow against a team so aggressive, so fast up front.”
City won the treble last season before securing the Super Cup in August with victory against Sevilla. They have also begun the Premier League season in imperious fashion, winning all five of their opening fixtures. “They [the fans]are happy, we’re happy,” Guardiola said. “Yesterday we took a picture of the team with the four trophies, but it’s over now.
“If I wanted to live for the memories I wouldn’t be here. I’d be at home or on a beach. We played the Super Cup against Sevilla, three days later against Newcastle. Not an ideal situation. This is a challenge, it is what it is. Go for it.
“The competition gives us a new challenge so at least try. Just as Madrid or the Sacchi period with Milan, they did it again in a row. I was incredibly proud at Barcelona to win two in four years [as coach, in 2009 and 2011]but we didn’t win it in a row. Let’s try by being ourselves.”