City is looking forward to entering the European golden record… and Inter is challenging
Inter, the Italian “representative of traditional clubs”, with its financial problems, will face a difficult challenge with its “rich” English rival Manchester City in the Champions League final in Istanbul next Saturday.
Inter stands one game away from winning the title for the fourth time in its history, while City is searching for its first title in the European elite competitions after more than a decade of trying.
The brilliant Inter embodies this season, continentally, the subsequent crises in the major European clubs that are threatened by debts, and despite this, he succeeded two seasons ago in ascending to the throne of the Italian League and is now standing on the verge of the continental title.
On the other hand, City established themselves as irresistible champions at home, finally winning their fifth Premier League title in the last six seasons, since the acquisition of Abu Dhabi United Group in 2008, with the support of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
City reached the Champions League final for the first time in 2021, losing to compatriot Chelsea 0-1. After being defeated by Real Madrid in the semi-finals last year, City took revenge on the royal club with the greatest record in European football in the semi-finals this season.
After adding the FA Cup to the league title, City are looking forward to achieving a treble in Istanbul, which Spanish coach Josep Guardiola described as a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity.
City is seen as the new force preparing for European hegemony, as the club topped the list of Deloitte financial reviews in measuring the financial strength of European clubs, with revenues amounting to $ 783 million last season, after it ranked seventh.
The competitors accuse the English club of continuing to breach the European Union’s financial fair play regulations, after City had previously been fined 60 million euros in 2014, and the club was banned for two years from “UEFA” competitions in February 2020. But the penalty was later canceled by Court of Arbitration for Sport.
In February this year, the club was charged with 115 alleged breaches of financial rules by the Premier League, relating to the period from 2009 to 2018, and the case is still ongoing. And Javier Tebas, president of the Spanish Football League, always accuses “state-supported clubs” and sees it as a new phenomenon that represents a danger that football has not seen before.
City wants to prove that its success is not only due to its financial strength, but also to its ambitious plan that it set years ago to build a cohesive base represented in the modern academies it established to take care of young talents, as well as the scouting team that has excelled over the years in attracting the best players.
City put his money into attracting Guardiola, the best coach of this era, and building an ideal environment for him to grow, and although the team did not succeed in reaching the European podium, there is confidence that the dream of winning the Champions League is close this year.
And the coronation of City in the Champions League will be the beginning of a new line on the map of the game that was controlled by the traditional powers. Real Madrid have won five of the last nine Champions League titles, while Barcelona, Liverpool, Bayern and Chelsea each achieved one title.
Barcelona was eliminated from the group stage of the Champions League in the past two seasons, while Liverpool will be in the European League (Europa League) next season, and Chelsea, the 2021 champion, will be completely absent from Europe.
Meanwhile, Manchester United are preparing to return to the Champions League, and may soon be in the hands of the Qataris.
This is because the Qatari banker, Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al Thani, is fighting a war over the club’s acquisition with British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe. Newcastle United will also participate in the Champions League next season, after finishing fourth in the Premier League. The Saudi Investment Fund owns 80 percent of the shares of Newcastle, which last appeared in the Champions League in the 2002-2003 season. A big spending spree can be expected by Newcastle, and it can now outpace the European elite in the transfer market.
On the other hand, the brilliant Inter this season, despite its financial crises, is seen as an example of the traditional European clubs that are suffering, as the club has to pay an emergency loan of 275 million euros ($ 294 million), obtained by its Chinese owners Suning two years ago from the investment fund «Oaktree Capital». At an interest rate of ten percent.
The restrictions imposed on the removal of capital from China and the “Covid-19” pandemic constituted a double blow to Inter, and led to the club last year quickly abandoning its Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku and Moroccan full-back Ashraf Hakimi, while coach Antonio Conte left, before returning and borrowing Lukaku this season from English Chelsea.
The loans must be repaid in full within a year, or Inter may end up transferring its ownership to a new owner, as happened to its arch-neighbor Milan, which was acquired by the Elliott Investment Fund by Chinese businessman Li Yongzhong in 2018.
Last season, Inter recorded losses amounting to 140 million euros, after a year of record losses amounting to 245.6 million euros, due to the matches being held without fans due to “Covid”.
Its former general manager, Ernesto Paolillo, said last month: “It is unbearable to pay debts with such high interest rates. President Stephen Chang is not able to export capital from China and will not be able to repay the debt from other sources, and he will have no choice but to default on the implementation of the agreement and sell the club.
Reaching the Champions League final should help Inter obtain some money to solve its problems, albeit temporarily, so it cannot be compared with Manchester City, which is supported by the Abu Dhabi Investment Holding Company, as well as the beneficiary of lucrative income from television transfer contracts for the largest English league in the continent.
Inter put its focus on the Champions League competition this season, after Napoli dominated the local competition. After drawing the draw for the quarter-finals and semi-finals of the Champions League this season, coach Simone Inzaghi’s team knew that it had a great chance to reach the final, as it fell in a path far from Spanish Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Manchester City. And now Inter is looking forward to winning its fourth title in the competition after 1964, 1965 and 2010, which was under the supervision of Portuguese coach Jose Mourinho.
Since being eliminated by Portuguese Benfica in the quarter-finals, Inter won 11 times out of 12 matches in various competitions, in exchange for a single loss against Napoli, to achieve a beautiful series that also saw them crowned the local cup title.
What might bother Guardiola is the rising level of Inter strikers. Argentine international Lautaro Martinez had a bad period until the second leg of the Champions League final, but since then he has scored 11 times in 13 games, while his colleague Lukaku continues to shine, scoring 7 times and 5 assists in that period.
Guardiola stressed that his team’s previous failures in Europe or its domestic successes would not have any impact on Saturday’s Champions League final, and urged his players to focus on writing a new history for the club.
Guardiola won five Premier League titles, two FA Cups and four English League Cups, but European success eluded the coach, who was twice crowned the Champions League while he was leading Barcelona.
Guardiola said: We will try to do our best because we know that the final depends on how we behave in 90 minutes. It’s not about history, otherwise (Inter) would be better than us. It is about what you will do during the match, and to impose yourself on the opponent… It is a single match.
The City coach praised Inter’s defensive organization, after the Italian team conceded only three goals in six matches in the knockout stages of the Champions League this year, and explained: “What we are trying to do in the next few days is to try to play and avoid any difficulties. We have to impose the rhythm and be patient.” . We won’t do that after three or four passes. We have to impose our control throughout the ninety minutes.