Manchester City has come a long way from the team struggling to stay afloat in the English top flight back in the day. As recently as the 2008/09 campaign, the side finished 10th on the Premier League table under former manager Mark Hughes. Georgios Samaras played as a striker under the Welshman before Roberto Mancini took over.
It has been a race to the top from then. Ten consecutive Champions League qualifications have established the side as a regular in the continent’s elite competition.
Significant investment into the squad has produced several honours. The team has also set several records on the pitch in the process. But that has not translated to success on the continent.
Pep Guardiola was expected to take the team to the summit in Europe after his heroics at Barcelona. Unfortunately, the Catalan boss has not been able to get past the quarter-final stage of the competition in four seasons at the Etihad Stadium.
Regardless, the club’s steady rise to prominence has seen many tip it to conquer Europe in the near future. Samaras is convinced that is the case. The former striker revealed his thoughts to City’s official website.
“The club is going in the right direction with the players they have brought in over the last few years and under Pep’s leadership,” Samaras said.
“The only thing needed is that extra detail to get into the semi-finals and then into the final - but City are learning and every year it is more experience and another lesson.
“Barcelona and Real Madrid know the competition well, whereas City have only been competing for 10 years and are trying to become one of these elite clubs.”
The former Greece international also took the opportunity to reflect on his time at the Etihad Stadium. He highlighted how much things have change compared to the instability players had to endure at the club back then.
“When I came to City, I stayed three seasons and in that time we had three different coaches (Stuart Pearce, Sven-Goran Eriksson and Mark Hughes) and three different boards – it was crazy for the players because they don’t feel comfortable and it is very unsettling.
“Each season I had a new manager, new owner with many new players in an players out.
“There was no philosophy or continuity – now, everything is different and there is a real philosophy and that goes from the ground staff to the owner – a football club is just not about players, it is about everybody, from the head to the toes.
“I never regret one moment of my time with City. I was very happy there and the people were very friendly with me – there were a lot of changes and I was just 20 when I arrived but playing for City lead me to eventually play for Celtic for seven years so those 10 years were great for me, playing in top leagues, Europe and the national team.
“Manchester is a great city and I had a good time there.
“If I were to compare how the club was in 2006 to today, it is completely different, but in a very good way.
“I’m just happy for the people at the club and the City fans because they deserve the best – they had a lot of times when things weren’t so good and now they deserve the time to enjoy these titles and to win many more.
“There are many more titles and things to achieve in the coming years for City and I am absolutely delighted for the fans and the club because, as I say, they deserve it.
“I still follow City and Celtic very closely and I have a strong emotional attachment to both clubs and wish them only good things.
“I think now, with this coach and this group of players, that City have what it takes to go that extra push.
“In my opinion, City have had a lot of bad luck in this competition and as long as everyone stays healthy and together, I think City will have a very, very good season.”
So far, things are going well in the UCL for City this season with convincing wins in the first three games. Beating Porto (3-1), Marseille (3-0) and Olympiakos (3-0) is commendable. But that has become expected of the Blues. One more group stage victory and passage into the next round will be confirmed. It is then, that the real fight begins.