Man City and Chelsea: from underdogs to the European elite
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Champions League finalists Manchester City and Chelsea were once the brash newcomers who turned established European powers upside down, but they are now part of the continental elite.
Pep Guardiola’s town seek their first Champions League title on Saturday, while Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea aim to become European champions for the second time in their history.
AFP takes a look at the key moments that transformed the fortunes of both clubs as they prepare for the all-English final in Porto.
– Abramovich silver –
Chelsea had won only one top English title – in 1955 – before Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich bought the London club in 2003.
Stamford Bridge’s outfit was already going in the right direction from the late 1990s, winning a handful of domestic cups, but did not mount a serious challenge in the Premier League.
The Russian oligarch‘s billions were executed immediately as Chelsea brought in a handful of top players including Claude Makelele and Hernan Crespo.
– The arrival of Mourinho –
Italian coach Claudio Ranieri and his new acquisitions finished second in the Premier League in 2003/04, but that was not enough to keep him in a job with Abramovich hungry for more.
Jose Mourinho broke into Stamford Bridge in 2004, just after winning the Champions League with Porto, posing as the “Special One”.
The Portuguese proved to be a perfect fit, winning the Premier League in his first season at the helm and retaining it the following year as the Manchester United-Arsenal duopoly shattered.
– Acquisition of Etihad –
Manchester City shone briefly in the late 1960s, but were in the shadow of Manchester United’s neighbors for decades, even dropping to the third tier of English football in the late 1990s.
Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra bought the club in 2007, but the following year Sheikh Mansour’s Abu Dhabi United group acquired City and changed the face of the English game.
Mansour has funded a revolution on and off the pitch, bringing in superstar players – Brazilian Robinho being the first to arrive – but also consciously building for the long haul.
– City title –
The huge sums of money paid to City did not reap immediate dividends, but they slowly but surely made their way to the top of English football, ending a 35-year silverware drought by winning the FA Cup 2011.
The following season, they propelled Manchester United to the title in the most exciting climax of the season, with Sergio Aguero’s latest goal now part of the city’s folklore.
Since then, they have only finished in the top two places twice, becoming the Kings of Manchester.
– Chelsea wins the Champions League –
Mourinho has not been able to deliver the Champions League to Chelsea despite being shut down during his first stint at Stamford Bridge.
They were clear of John Terry from beating Manchester United on penalties in the 2008 Moscow final under Avram Grant.
But Abramovich finally realized his dream in the 2011/2012 season, when they were crowned European champions after beating Bayern Munich on penalties, with Roberto Di Matteo at the helm.
They have since won the Europa League twice.
– Guardiola Peps up City –
Roberto Mancini was in charge when City won their first Premier League title in 2012 and Manuel Pellegrini repeated the round two years later.
But it wasn’t until the arrival of former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola that City got underway and became the dominant force in English football.
The Catalan finished third in the league in his first season in charge, but won it three times in the next four seasons amid a glut of other trophies.
Guardiola has won the Champions League twice while coaching Barcelona, but has had to wait a decade to conquer Europe since.
– City ban canceled –
If City becomes European champion this year, July 13, 2020 will be one of the key dates.
It was then that they discovered that the Court of Arbitration for Sport had lifted a two-season ban on European competitions imposed by UEFA’s governing body.
City were punished earlier in the year for “serious breaches” of financial fair play regulations, but immediately challenged the ban.
Less than a year later, they are on the verge of winning the biggest prize in European football.
© 2021 AFP