Pep Guardiola insisted that Manchester City are “decades” behind Europe’s largest clubs despite the 5-0 win away to injury-hit Watford that clinched Champions League qualification.
The City manager was delighted with the result on the final day of the Premier League season for one of the richest clubs in world football, but former Barcelona and Bayern Munich head coach Guardiola 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 in Europe, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Juventus.
“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 Stadium 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 the top clubs in Europe next season, the manager was relieved to have secured third place in the Premier League and so avoided 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.
“But we showed many good things and we are so happy,” added the manager whose initial campaign in England ended without a trophy.
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.
“Every year qualifying for the Champions League will be tougher and tougher, and we are there.
“We are satisfied because we are in the Champions League. 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 manager Walter Mazzarri left the club after six successive defeats, their worst run for 44 years, but he cited injures 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. It’s another objective in my career.
“I’m experienced enough to know you cannot have 20,000 people on your side. I know the majority understood what was going on.”