Glory In Europe Closer Than We Think, Says City Chief

Manchester City must build the club’s reputation to become an intimidating opponent for Europe’s best teams, says Txiki Begiristain.
Manchester City must build the club's reputation to become an intimidating opponent for Europe's best teams, says Txiki Begiristain.

Manchester City’s director of football Txiki Begiristain admitted the Premier League champions are not yet feared in Europe, but said Champions League glory was “closer than we think”.

City are going into their eighth successive campaign in European football’s top competition but have only progressed beyond the quarter-final stage once in that time.

A 1-0 aggregate defeat to Real Madrid in the 2016 semi-final under Manuel Pellegrini represented their best effort, and since then Pep Guardiola has guided City to the last 16 in 2016-17 and a quarter-final defeat to Liverpool last season.

Asked whether the Etihad Stadium was an intimidating place for Europe’s best to play, the former Spain winger said: “Not yet.

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“We need to face those kinds of games. Getting to the semi-finals of the Champions League is the main target. Having the experience of playing in semi-finals helps you get to the finals.

“We have to become a winning club. It doesn’t mean we have to win the Premier League for the next 10 years. It means we have to fight for the title – really fight, be there.

“If you do that, you know you are going to fight for the Champions League. It is a matter of getting the experience to play in those games: that game to win the league; that game to win the semi-final of the Champions League. You need time for this.”

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Begiristain said last season’s Premier League title victory had helped to build the club’s reputation and prestige – something he feels they must do in order to compete with the likes of Madrid, who have won the Champions League in each of the last three seasons.

Prior to 2011-12, City had played in Europe’s top club competition just once, in 1968-69, when they were knocked out in the first round by Fenerbahce.

“We are getting there,” said Begiristain, who was speaking as part of the documentary All Or Nothing.

“It is closer than we think. What happened last season helps now to become one of the favourites for everything. This is the pressure.

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“It is not only about the players you have. It is also what the club means for the opponent. If you go to [Real Madrid’s stadium] the Bernabeu, you are playing against 11 players but you are also playing against the stadium, the history, everything. That history, that stadium, those players, affects everything – the opponent, the referee.

“The only way to become one of them is to always be a winning club.”

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