Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has admitted that he doesn't believe that City will be "able to compete" with Europe's elite in this season's Champions League, stating that his side are still in the "process of growing" ahead of their opening group game against Feyenoord.
Dream is still far away
City's affiliation with Europe's elite competition is only seven years old from the 2011-12 season, with their best finish coming in the final season of Manuel Pellegrini losing in the semi-finals to eventual winners Real Madrid in the 2015/16 season.
Guardiola's first season at the Etihad Stadium was a disappointing one in many ways and their lack of progress in the Champions League was certainly one of them, with them being knocked out in the last-16 by the exciting, young AS Monaco side.
Many will be surprised by Guardiola's comments ahead of their clash at the De Kuip having just spent £226 million on transfers in the summer, but the coach insisted that he is "so happy" with the player he has but believes they need to go through the "process of growing" before contending for the big titles.
“I don’t know if we are able to compete," Guardiola admitted to his pre-match press conference. "We are still in the process of growing."
"I’m so happy with the players we have," the coach stated. "We can do better than last season – but I don’t know."
“I don’t know now if we’re able to compete for the titles because we’re in the process of growing," the Catalan national conceded. "We are not dreaming – when you’re in that position [of having a chance] it’s better to be calm."
"When you arrive in the last stages you say the dream is close," Guardiola added. "But now it’s still far away.”
Want more from everyone
City still have a number of those players that played in that semi-final with the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Agüero, David Silva, Fernandinho and Nicolás Otamendi; another one of those was midfielder Yaya Touré, but the Ivorian has yet to see action thus far.
The relationship between the two had been rocky even from their time at FC Barcelona and came to a head last season when Guardiola refused to play him after comments made by his agent Dimitri Seluk.
Touré apologised and ended up becoming a key player for Guardiola in the back end of last season earning him a new deal in the process, however the 34-year-old has yet to feature so far in the new campaign and didn't travel to the Netherlands and Guardiola stated that it was a "sportive decision".
“I spoke with him and he knows the reason why," he said on the Ivorian's absence. "But it’s between him and me. It’s a sportive decision,”
“He was so important last season," he stated. "Six players finished their contract and he was the only one who stayed because he’s a special player."
"But the decision is he didn’t play the last game and today he is not in the squad," the 46-year-old confirmed. "And he knows the reason why. He will play soon. It depends on the player."
"I’m always happy [with him] but I demand as much as possible," Guardiola concluded. "I want more, not just from Yaya – I want more from everyone.”