Pep Guardiola launched an impassionate account of expectations around Manchester City after another crushing Champions League blow in midweek.
Guardiola revealed that he had not spoken to his browbeaten players following the bruising 6-5 aggregate semi-final defeat by Real Madrid and plans to address them on Saturday.
The 51-year-old, speaking with the emotion of a man committed to signing a new contract at the Etihad Stadium, suggested he might not be able to ever deliver European glory to the club.
Pep Guardiola launched a passionate of his Manchester City players after their latest setback
City were knocked out of the Champions League semi-finals, but Guardiola hit back at critics
But Guardiola fired back at critics who branded his side a failure and lacking character during a charged press conference. He also maintained that the club’s owners have not communicated that lifting the Champions League trophy is a priority.
‘We didn’t speak with the players – no words can help for what all of us feel,’ he said. ‘It is just a question of time, sleep as well as possible and think of the next target.
‘I have the feeling that the people from Abu Dhabi bought this club and invested in these incredible facilities and players – like a lot of other clubs in the world – to not just win the Champions League.
Real Madrid stunned City at the Bernabeu after Karim Benzema netted the winner in extra-time
‘The club never asked me to win any title, they asked me to play as good as possible, to compete with all the teams in England and in Europe. It is completely the opposite to what people think.
‘Maybe I’m not good enough to help the team to do it. Nobody knows what would have happened with other players or managers.
‘People say if this group of players won’t win the Champions League they will be failures. I accept it. I completely disagree, in sport we know how difficult everything is, but I accept it. I’m not going to make a debate about who is right or wrong.’
Guardiola added: ‘When we win the Champions League, and hopefully we do it, it will because of the money we spend. Never will it be for the work done behind the scenes. We are the only club in the world in the last 10, 15 or 20 years that spend money.
Guardiola dismissed claims his side lack character and called for focus on the Premier League
‘Now people say it’s lack of character. Lack of character? What happens if Jack Grealish scores those two goals? What is the character? At Atlético Madrid when [Angel] Correa shot and Ederson saves, now it’s character. If Correa scores it’s not character.
‘I know the people outside of here demand just Champions League, Champions League, Champions League. We know it.
‘We were close – they know it, we know it – but what is important is we are going to try again next season, and then again, and in the Premier League. We have the Premier League in our hands.’
City, who face Newcastle United on Sunday, are one point clear of Liverpool with four matches left as they attempt to lift a fourth title in five years.
Manager Guardiola has also insisted that he is ‘starving’ for success and relishes the pressure
Guardiola will tell his players to use the heartache and drama of their stoppage-time capitulation at the Bernabeu on Wednesday night as fuel.
And he claimed that previous defeats in Europe – particularly against Tottenham in the 2019 quarter-final – remain fresh in his mind and have kept him at City for so long.
‘Always I am starving [for success],’ he added. ‘How can the players forget Wednesday? They will think about it for sure. Don’t forget it. Still I remember Tottenham and Raheem [Sterling’s offside] being one inch. That’s why as manager I live these situations, I love it.
‘Now we are a bit sad but they will be memories, we lived them. Lifting trophies is so nice – but the difference between winners and losers is only small. You play with emotions, and emotions are uncontrollable.
‘What we lived in Madrid, it will help us a club, as a team in the future. People don’t realize now but I tell you, it’s good for us. The worst is to not live it. I would love to win the Champions League, to be in the final in Paris, [but] to live that we will be better in the future.
‘We played better than Real Madrid but we are out. Atletico played better than us in second half and with luck they’d have been in semi-final. It’s football, and that’s the only explanation – 22 players moving with the ball, mistakes and at the end, after 210 minutes, we are out. I will not judge my players, I’m not the person to judge them. They have to judge themselves. I know how hard it is.’
Meanwhile, City suffered another blow on Friday as coach Carlos Vicens agreed a deal to become Heracles Almelo manager.
The 39-year-old will take over the Eredivisie side at the end of the season. Guardiola recently hailed the impact Vicens has made in overhauling City’s set pieces this term.