Pep Guardiola has told his Manchester City bosses they need to spend big again because they are “far away” from achieving their goal of winning the Champions League.
It means another huge summer of transfer activity for owner Sheikh Mansour, who hired managerial rock-star Guardiola a year ago to create history and bring his experience of winning football’s biggest club competition to the Etihad.
Instead, the Spaniard is a mere spectator at the quarter-final stage for the first time in his eight-season coaching career, with his Blues having been knocked out in the previous round by Monaco.
It’s a situation he doesn’t want to repeat in a year’s time – and one he can’t probably afford o, knowing Mansour’s strident demands.
Asked how much ground City must make up to be potential kings of Europe rather than also-rans, Guardiola’s answer was unequivocal: “We are far away. The Champions League is so demanding.”
It’s why he will seek more backing in the transfer market this summer as he looks to mould City into a side that can better last season’s run to the semi-finals under then-boss Manuel Pellegrini.
Already on the radar are the likes of Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci, Tottenham’s England full-back Danny Rose, Arsenal’s striker and full-back Alexis Sanchez and Hector Bellerin, plus Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Guardiola also believes the survivors from his current squad can learn from this season’s disappointment of the defeat on away goals following a 6-6 aggregate draw with Monaco in the last 16.
“We were able to score six goals in two games and we are out. It’s about how you live and handle the situation. For that you need experience. Hopefully we got that and it will help us next season,” he added.
But as City prepare to visit Southampton in Saturday’s evening game, a place in the top four to ensure Champions League football next season is not guaranteed.
“We need to qualify for next season,” confirmed Guardiola, who is banking on Sergio Aguero’s goals to help smooth the passage back into Europe’s top club competition.
The striker has come in for some flak from Guardiola, prompting talk that the pocket- sized striker might be on the move at the end of the season, especially with the arrival of Gabriel Jesus.
But he received a welcome pat on the back from his manager on the eve of the trip to St. Mary’s.
The City boss added of Aguero: “My feeling before was that he was just waiting to score a goal. Now he’s involved in the game. Not just the defensive part – [although] he’s helped us a lot – but he is doing all he can do in our process to create chances.
“That’s why there are no complaints about what he has done after the injury to Gabriel Jesus. Maybe now he understands better what we’re looking for. He’s trying and that is what I want.
“When he misses chances, always you can improve, but we’ve no complaints.”
Guardiola is also prepared to forgive his leading scorer for his disciplinary problems.
Two separate suspensions have seen the 28-year-old miss seven games this season.
Smiling, he added: “He’s such an aggressive guy… seven games banned because he is so aggressive. Maybe next season he plays as a central defender!”