Guardiola says becoming European champions is next logical step for City
The manager is hoping to ignite fans’ interest in the European competition ahead of game against Dinamo Zagreb
City manager Pep Guardiola: “All I can do is say to our fans, ‘come to join us and support us, these guys deserve it’.” Photograph: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images
Pep Guardiola has insisted he will not “kill himself” if Manchester City do not win the Champions League under his management. The Catalan twice claimed the competition when in charge of Barcelona, but is yet to take City beyond the quarter-final stage in three previous attempts.
Ahead of the meeting with Dinamo Zagreb on Tuesday, Guardiola said: “If I don’t win I’m not going to kill myself. I will try my best. My first press conference in the first year here it was the same question. People said ‘you are here to win the Champions League’.
“I said ‘okay’. But I speak with Ferran [Soriano, chief executive], Khaldoon [al-Mubarak, chairman] and they didn’t tell me that. They told me I was here to continue the project, to try to win one game and then another and see how far we get.
“The people here want to win it. The fans – without them it’s impossible without the feeling that we want to do it and are able to do it. [With only the] 11 players it’s not possible. We are going to try to seduce our fans and say ‘okay we can do it’.”
Asked what he meant by “seduce”, Guardiola responded: “The only way is winning games and playing good. Every single day we work. I know for the fans it’s the Premier League – that’s the most exciting. We know that as a club, we’ve done polls. I know how special it is. But this competition is nice too. They have to live it as a dream.”
City supporters have had a love-hate relationship with the Champions League over the years, but Guardiola admitted it would take time to build up a tradition in the same way as fans of Liverpool and Manchester United have done.
“That’s true,” he said. “[But] that’s a reality of our club. We have to accept it. We have to seduce them so they realise how it’s important. I think it’s because in the past they were not there at our club [watching City in the competition].
“We were at home in the bars, drinking beer, watching Liverpool and United. That’s the culture of the club. We are making steps. I wouldn’t want to arrive once in the final then disappear for five years. I’ve a feeling we are closer but this competition is a high level, anything can happen. All I can do is say to our fans, ‘come to join us and support us, these guys deserve it’.”
Having reached just one semi-final under his predecessor Manuel Pellegrini, however, City’s performances in Europe’s most prestigious competition have failed to match their domestic success. Yet after claiming an unprecedented treble of trophies last season, Guardiola agreed becoming European champions is the next logical step for his side.
“Yes – it is. Definitely but sometimes it’s not possible, sometimes it takes a few years and sometimes longer,” the 48-year-old said. “Barça is the club in my heart but 1992 was the first one [triumph] and Barcelona was born a long, long time ago. They’ve been in it every season since they were born.”
The challenge of igniting fan interest is reflected in large swathes of tickets still being available for Tuesday’s match against the Croatian champions. Guardiola’s side won the opening Group C game 3-0, at Shakhtar Donetsk, while Nenad Bjelica’s team were surprise 4-0 victors at Serie A side Atalanta in their match.
“It was not bad playing five at the back and scoring four goals,” Guardiola said of the display. “Honestly, I don’t know [how they will play]. We will prepare for both options – [four or five in defence]. Italy is a tough, tough league and they managed to beat them 4-0. It is a warning to us – we say, be careful, guys.”
Guardiola indicated that Fernandinho will continue in central defence alongside Nicolas Otamendi. “If he feels fit, yeah he can play,” the manager said. “Last season he start to feel it towards the end but before last season he plays every three days.”