LONDON – Pep Guardiola has dominated English soccer in his time at Manchester City, winning five of the six domestic trophies in the last two seasons, and is once again putting Premier League glory at the top of his list of ambitions for the new season.
On Sunday, City faces Champions League winner Liverpool in the Community Shield at Wembley in the traditional season curtain-raiser.
Liverpool won its sixth European Cup with a 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. He’s now aiming for a repeat of the three straight league title wins he had in the German League with Bayern Munich at 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 was 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.
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 pushed City all the way in the Premier League title race — in England plus the Community Shield.
But it was 3-0 in the Reds’ favor 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 10-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.