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Manchester City can only envy what Real Madrid have and now need Pep Guardiola to work his magic

By Pete Jenson

A Radio 5 Live debate from the Santiago Bernabeu preceded last night's second leg posing the question: 'What would a combined XI of the two teams on show look like?'

The sad truth for Manchester City is that after eight years of incredible spending it would probably be entirely made up of Real Madrid players.

Joe Hart would have a puncher's chance of getting in ahead of Keylor Navas but in the outfield positions which City player is better than his Madrid counterpart?

Sergio Aguero and Kevin de Bruyne are City's Galaticos but the Argentine and the Belgian were second best on the night to Real Madrid youth teamer Jese Rodriguez and to the man Manuel Pellegrini wanted to sign two summers ago, Isco. Everywhere else it was a no contest. And it's not that this is a vintage Real Madrid side.

Marcelo is not at his best at left-back and the Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Isco midfield is not as good or as balanced as the Xabi Alonso, Angel di Maria, Modric trio that reached the final two years ago. But even so City players were all second best.

City had better hope that not having the best individuals no longer matters under Pep Guardiola because, if not, then he really does need the 'half-a-new-team' - that phrase that has bounced around the Premier League ever since it was confirmed he would be taking over.

The Real win will have been even harder to take for City's sporting director, Txiki Begiristain, because he must have seen in the white shirts of Real exactly the players that Manchester City need if they are to go forward in Europe.

Madrid signed Sergio Ramos from Sevilla when he was 19. City have not been able to unearth the English equivalent and grab him before the rest. Dani Carvajal and Jese are both products of the club's youth system - City continue to come up dry on that front.

They were priced out of signing Gareth Bale by a club at that time was not as hindered by the same financial restrictions and have failed to come close to luring him back ever since. But even a talent such as Modric was allowed to leave England and head to La Liga.

When Pellegrini spoke last year ahead of Manchester City's Champions League exit to Barcelona he said the club needed to sign one exceptional player - the 'crack' as he called it - that other big sides in this competition all have and that City lack. It still seems they don't have that one very special player.

On Tuesday night Atletico Madrid were Antoine Griezmann-inspired as they brushed past Bayern, whose talisman Robert Lewandowski scored on the night but could not get them back into the tie.

For Real Madrid last night it was Bale who was the difference for the 10-time winners.

Ludicrously the jury is still out on whether he has been a success of a failure at Real. Two European Cup finals - one in which he scored the crucial first goal in extra-time and the other in which his shot broke City's resistance in the semi-final - is a better return than most big money signings can hope for in their first five years, much less first three.

There will be ever fewer detractors for the Welshman after last night's contribution in a team which boasts homegrown talent, the best of their own league and the world's most expensive player.

Yet Real Madrid will not go into the final as favourites because Atletico have Diego Simeone - a coach capable of moulding a group of 11 players into a one monster moving as one. At least, City are getting a coach who is perhaps capable of working a similar miracle.

Belfast Telegraph


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