Will Manchester City or Pep Guardiola stop after entering the royal football halls? No chance.
City became the second English team to win the treble last week, joining Manchester United in winning the Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup in the same season. If there were any doubts left about how good this City side was and where they stand in the debate about the greatest sides of all time, they were answered in Istanbul.
Having reached new heights, it would be understandable if Guardiola wanted to take a step back and spend more time on the golf courses than going again next season. His reputation and legacy are secured forever, now.
However, Guardiola dismissed that idea on the pitch at the Ataturk Stadium in Istanbul, saying City ‘reset to zero’ in pre-season and will look to defend their three titles and show they are not satisfied with just winning a Champions League.
ALSO READ: Sheikh Mansour outlines Man City’s plans for 2023/24 in meeting with Pep Guardiola
Owner Sheikh Mansour was on hand in Istanbul to see City complete their rise to the top table just 15 years after he took over. He has featured in just one game in that time before last weekend but will have been delighted to be at the stadium to witness the club’s biggest ever moment.
He welcomed Guardiola, Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak, CEO Ferran Soriano and Director of Football Txiki Begiristain to Abu Dhabi this week and they brought all three trophies with them.
Sheikh Mansour ‘assured’ his visitors that City’s performance this season ’embodies the club’s strategy’ and the group ‘reviewed the club’s march, future plans and strategies in the sporting and investment fields and plans for 2023/24.’ It was with the aim of “ensuring the strengthening of the club’s position locally, Europeanly and globally.”
The bottom line is the important one, with the owner and hierarchy clearly not satisfied with one European Cup. They want to become a greater force in Europe, and therefore in the world. City have two immediate chances to do so with the UEFA Super Cup in August against Sevilla to add another new trophy, and the FIFA Club World Cup in December to become world champions.
City would be clear favorites to lift both trophies, and in reality they are more symbolic titles than having much reputation at all. The only surprise would be if they didn’t both win.
Guardiola would have another chance to become world champion in 2025, with City qualifying for the extended Club World Cup in June and July of that year. With more elite clubs from around the globe, winning in that format may earn more credit. Guardiola’s contract expires in the summer of 2025, so it could be his last act as City boss, depending on when the contract actually expires.
It has been reported and widely reported that Guardiola will honor the contract extension he signed in November, which will bring an end to his time in Manchester. If he were to add one or two more Champions Leagues, continue to dominate English football and add a world title or two, it would cement his legacy at the club.
2025 is also an important date when looking at the amount of players out of contract that summer. Ilkay Gundogan is out of contract this summer and even if he signs a new deal, he would certainly not be a City player at the start of 2025/26. Kyle Walker has been linked with a potential exit this summer and his contract expires in 2024, when he will just turn 35.
Also out of contract in 2025 are Kevin De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez, Aymeric Laporte, Nathan Ake and Bernardo Silva. All key players will be over 30 and De Bruyne would have just turned 34. While some may or may not extend these deals, they will need to be replaced at some point.
There is a pressing concern in midfield, with Gundogan potentially leaving this summer along with perhaps Bernardo Silva. De Bruyne needs a successor before long, while Mahrez’s precarious situation means Phil Foden may be needed out despite recent moves into the middle.
The news that City are considering a move for Declan Rice will strengthen the midfield for an extended period, while there will be a hope that Kalvin Phillips can offer more than he has in a disappointing first year. Foden and John Stones – plus Rico Lewis – have been trialled in the midfield areas and could also be rehabilitated in a new-look midfield.
However, whoever arrives may need a year or two to transition from a world-class midfield that has just won the treble to a new-look midfield that will take City forward after Guardiola. It may well be the case that as well as building a team this summer to defend the treble, Guardiola will need to build a team that will win trophies after he leaves.
If he were to leave a finished team, he could give City the last thing a great manager should do – a rebuilt side ready to continue to grow without them.
Take Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, who rebuilt United several times during his incredible 26-year tenure to win titles and European trophies throughout his tenure. If there was any criticism of Ferguson, however, it would be that the side he left in 2013 had aged, had overachieved by winning the league that year and needed a complete rebuild.
Ferguson, in fairness, stopped at the top and was not prepared to continue for the years it would take to rebuild. Guardiola himself admits he will never match the incredible numbers of Ferguson, but what he can do is ensure City do not face a ten-year wait for their next title after he leaves.
If he can do that, he will help Sheikh Mansour achieve his vision for the future both before and after he leaves.