Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola praised the club’s “incredible” journey after it reached the Champions League final for the first time.
With a 2-1 advantage over Paris Saint-Germain from the first-leg, City dominated the return fixture on Tuesday and Riyad Mahrez netted a brace to wrap up the semifinal with a 4-1 aggregate win.
The Premier League side, backed by wealthy owners, have targeted European football’s most prestigious competition for years and it has never been so close to being crowned champion.
City reached the semifinals under former manager Manuel Pellegrini, but since Guardiola took charge in 2016, the club had previously failed to get past the quarterfinals.
Whilst European success has proved elusive, Guardiola has ushered in plenty of domestic success — winning two Premier League titles — but this is the competition that everyone associated the club has had their eye on.
“What we have done the last four years has been incredible,” Guardiola said after the match. “The Champions League is the hardest and getting to the final was the hardest thing for us to achieve.
“We deserve to be there for everything we have done at the club in the past four or five years.”
The Abu Dhabi United Group (ADUG) bought City in 2008.
The private investment company, owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, went on to spend $2.3 billion between then and 2019.
“I want to thank the former players who helped take us to another level — Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany and David Silva. This is because of them, they helped take us to another level,” said Guardiola, who as a coach hasn’t won the Champions League since 2011.
Guardiola left Barca in 2012, but in his three years with Bayern Munich and his first four seasons at City, he was unable to crack the code to reach the final.
“I also want to thank the owner, the Chairman and the staff at the club,” added Guardiola. “This club is about all the people that work behind the scenes, the ground staff working at halftime, it’s not just about money. If you want to think that then you are wrong.”
Fans gave the team an emphatic welcome as the team bus pulled up at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday night and the players responded accordingly.
The jubilant scenes at the full-time whistle showed just how much it meant to City, with defender Oleksandr Zinchenko in tears on the pitch.
The celebrations continued into the dressing room with videos on social media showing staff and players singing and dancing.
PSG falls short
PSG, meanwhile, has come up short yet again in its own pursuit of a first Champions League trophy.
Like City, its owners have splashed the cash in order to secure the title but last year’s runners-up failed to manage its emotions, ending Tuesday’s game with 10 men as also happened in the first leg.
With the tie slipping away, Angel Di Maria was sent off for a stamp on Fernandinho in the second half and defender Presnel Kimpembe was lucky to get away with just a yellow card after a hefty tackle on Gabriel Jesus
The visitors had to start with star forward Kylian Mbappe on the bench after the Frenchman picked up a calf injury but manager Mauricio Pochettino did not use that as an excuse.
“That cannot be an excuse, we are a team,” Pochettino said after the match. “Of course, it’s unlucky he was not ready to help the team, but that’s not an excuse.
“We cannot use that excuse because the performance from the team was good.
“I need to congratulate Manchester City because they are having a fantastic season. After six or seven seasons of working, Pep is doing well. At the same time, we feel proud of our players and our team.”
City will face either Real Madrid or Chelsea in the final, scheduled for Istanbul, Turkey, on May 29.