City still behind europe's cream: Pep

Gabriel Jesus lifting the ball over Watford goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes for Manchester City's fifth in their 5-0 whipping of Watford, sealing third spot in the league in Pep Guardiola's first season in England.
Gabriel Jesus lifting the ball over Watford goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes for Manchester City's fifth in their 5-0 whipping of Watford, sealing third spot in the league in Pep Guardiola's first season in England.PHOTO: REUTERS

Guardiola happy to qualify for Champions League but insists Etihad club must improve

LONDON • Pep Guardiola insisted that Manchester City are "decades" behind Europe's largest clubs despite a 5-0 win away over injury-hit Watford that clinched Champions League qualification.

The City manager was delighted with the result on Sunday - the final day of the Premier League season - for one of the richest clubs in world football, but said that wealth did not count as much as experience and status.

"When Real Madrid and Barcelona want one player other teams cannot compete," said the Spaniard. "It's not just money. It's Real and Barca. (Money) is not enough. To compete against them we need time, decades.

"For years this club (City) was not playing in Europe, and now we've been there seven years. But to achieve the next step, the gap is shorter but it's more difficult to compete head to head against the big clubs, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Juventus.

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"Atletico Madrid made that step but even they could not win the Champions League even though they deserved to."

Guardiola revealed that Sergio Aguero, who scored twice against Watford and could have had more, will remain at the Etihad next season, along with captain Vincent Kompany, who opened the scoring with a free header from a corner.

Despite his misgivings about City's chances against Europe's top clubs next season, the manager was relieved to have secured third place in the Premier League and avoid a qualifying round.

"It was in our hands, not depending on anything, and Watford had trouble in defence, a lot of injuries, but always when you play for something on the last weekend of the season it is complicated, there is always pressure, there is no second chance," said Guardiola, whose initial campaign in England ended without a trophy.

"But we showed many good things and we are so happy."

Guardiola said his first season in the Premier League "was what I expected".

"Big, big teams, we knew it wouldn't be easy. Knowing Chelsea play one game a week, how strong they are. Tottenham were second and one of the best teams of the world playing football. The gap is like this, we were not good enough but we want to play better next season to reduce that gap and fight to the end.

"In terms of how many times Man City have been in Europe, we cannot compare against Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal or Chelsea.

"Tomorrow we will think about what to do next season and the pressure will be the same, to try to win. And if it's not possible to improve, to try to find out why and make changes."

Watford coach Walter Mazzarri left the club after six successive defeats, their worst run for 44 years, but he cited injuries as the reason.

"While we had a complete squad we were fighting for seventh place, reached 40 points and were 10th. But today we had absolutely no defenders, I would like to see which team could do better," he said.

"I gave everything and with such a difficult situation a less experienced manager would have done worse. We were safe with six games left."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 23, 2017, with the headline 'City still behind europe's cream: Pep'. Print Edition | Subscribe