LONDON — Manchester City can emulate Barcelona’s level of dominance under Pep Guardiola in the next few years if they keep the core of their team together, according to former City defender Bacary Sagna.
Guardiola led City to the Premier League title in historic fashion this season, breaking competition records for most points, most wins, most goals scored, biggest margin of victory and biggest goal difference — though they exited the Champions League at the quarterfinal stage to Liverpool.
Sagna, who played under Guardiola for one year before being released in the summer of 2017, believes it is only a matter of time before City make their presence felt in Europe in a similar manner to the great Barcelona teams that won the Champions League in 2009 and 2011.
“They’re going to be flying in the next five years, because all of them are 22, 23 years old,” the Frenchman told ESPN FC at the launch of Primetag, a digital tool that offers players, teams, brands and media a new way to utilise social media information.
“If they keep the shape of the team — and they will — they’re going to be very successful, a bit like Barcelona were [under Guardiola] in the past. They’re going to be flying in every competition they’re going to be playing in.”
Sagna added that he saw the foundations for City’s domestic achievements being laid by the former Bayern Munich and Barcelona boss last season, though he admitted the players’ execution of the system fell short in key moments that undermined their hopes of winning major silverware.
“The way we were training was different, the pressure we had on training was different,” Sagna added. “It was very demanding and it’s still very demanding. He wants to take the best of every single player and I think this season shows that he managed to do it.
“The previous season we had a good team, we were really strong, but we missed a little bit of attitude, of desire on the pitch. This season you notice the team was like sharks. That’s what they called themselves and they were, because they reached 100 points. They achieved great [things].
“The Champions League was the only bad point of the season, but they’re going to be leading the top teams in the seasons coming and they’re going to be achieving a lot.”
Liam is ESPN FC’s Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.