Pep Guardiola has dominated English football in his time at Manchester City, winning five of the six domestic trophies in the last two seasons, and once again is putting Premier League glory at the top of his list of ambitions for the new season.
On Sunday, City tackle Champions League winners Liverpool in the Community Shield at Wembley in the traditional season curtain-raiser.
Liverpool won their sixth European Cup with victory over Tottenham in May, and while Guardiola does want to conquer Europe with City, he prefers the sustained excellence that a successful league campaign brings over the vagaries of the post-Christmas knockout rounds.
The 48-year-old Spaniard has won eight titles in ten seasons as a manager and he is now aiming to repeat the three straight league title wins he had at German giants Bayern Munich with City.
“The Champions League is an important tournament and difficult to win,” he said.
“But it’s seven games (the knockout stages). I am not going to go to the casino and gamble everything I have in my pocket on seven games. I don’t want that.
“I want to be happy for 11 months and the Premier League makes me happy. Every game when we win, I am happy and I go to a restaurant feeling better.
“Why am I going to wait until February for seven games and put everything on black? From my point of view, that is too risky.”
Guardiola, whose side were knocked out of the Champions League by Liverpool and Spurs in the past two seasons, said the title meant everything to him.
“To maintain the health and focus of the team, the most important thing is the Premier League,” he said.
“It is the standout competition because it is every weekend. In the Champions League, many things can happen in one or two games.
“We will be closer to achieving in Europe when we have more Premier League titles. That is a nice process and the right process to do at Manchester City.
“If I could have one thing this season, right now, it would definitely be the title.”
– ‘Players were incredible’ –
The discussion has been had all summer about whose achievements were greater last season, Liverpool’s Champions League glory or City winning the three domestic trophies — Liverpool pushing City all the way in the Premier League title race — in England plus the Community Shield.
But it was 3-0 in the Reds’ favour in nominations for the best male player for the Best Fifa Football Awards, which were announced last Wednesday.
Virgil van Dijk, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane are on the ten-man shortlist.
It has left Guardiola wondering what City’s players must do to receive wider acclaim for their performances.
“I cannot imagine Real Madrid or Barcelona winning four titles in one season and not having a single player there,” he said.
“That is impossible. I am not going to say that the ten guys nominated don’t deserve it, but I am a bit surprised we had no one because our players were incredible.
“For example, I don’t think any player made a better season than Bernardo Silva, who also won the Nations League with Portugal.”
Guardiola had to acknowledge that success in Europe is the only remedy to resolving the conundrum.
“These awards are normally when you win the Champions League or are in the latter stages,” he said.
“The other competitions do not count. So if we win the Champions League, our players will be there.”