A week later, Bayern beat VfB Stuttgart to win the DFB-Pokal, earning the German champions a unique continental treble and confirming them as arguably the finest football team currently playing in Europe.
As Bayern confirmed a high-profile, money-spinning move for Dortmund’s star prodigy Mario Goetze in the offseason and look to bring in Robert Lewandowski, their main rival’s chief marksman, next season, they have attracted ire from some quarters on their financial domination of the Bundesliga in pursuit of sporting success.
Ultimately, though, it is silverware that defines a football club’s prestige, and as Bayern have become the newest member of a rich and powerful footballing powerhouse, so Manchester City will look to gatecrash the party.
Here are five reasons why a new-look City can win the treble next season. Enjoy and let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Disclaimer: A “treble” in question does not only comprise the continental version. Any three-trophy haul can be reasonably considered a treble. For the most part, we look at a domestic treble for City, though our last slide might have something to say about that…
So far this summer, Manchester City have brought in two new players, investing heavily in Jesus Navas and Fernandinho.
While the £30 million fee reported by BBC Sport for Fernandinho is hefty and has attracted eager debate on its worthiness, the mooted £14.9 million deal for Jesus Navas (also courtesy of BBC Sport) should be considered a good piece of business—his well-publicized track record of chronic homesickness aside.
Contrast this with a hesitant approach to last summer’s transfer policy—which culminated in the likes of Scott Sinclair, Jack Rodwell and Javi Garcia—and we immediately see an obvious contrast.
This summer, City have pinpointed areas of weakness and brought in world-class reinforcements. With the inconsistent form of David Silva last season, City now have another genuinely threatening winger in Navas. As Gareth Barry continues his decline, and as Javi Garcia continues to struggle, in comes Fernandinho to provide energy and drive from the midfield.
The loss of Mario Balotelli in the January transfer window and the ceaseless rumors of Edin Dzeko linked with an exit have seen City linked with strong replacements up front in the form of Alvaro Negredo and Pablo Osvaldo, according to the Independent.
The same Independent report also links Real Madrid defender Pepe with a move to the Etihad Stadium, which illustrates City’s intent on strengthening their back line as well, following the departure of Kolo Toure and the unsteady form of Joleon Lescott.
Expect more impressive signings to come before the transfer window slams shut on August 31, and expect a fearsome City team to take to Premier League grounds this season.
This is a fearsome City team that already has a strong core and an excellent foundation for Manuel Pellegrini to build upon (more on him later).
This is the squad that famously won the 2011-2012 Premier League title—their first ever—in dramatic fashion, starring a world-class spine of Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure, David Silva and Sergio Aguero.
The rise to stardom of Pablo Zabaleta last season leaves the left-back position as relatively unsung, but with the addition of Fernandinho, the midfield looks a physical, fast and powerful prospect, with Yaya Toure capable of dominating Premier League midfields and defences.
A host of strong squad players in Micah Richards, James Milner, Samir Nasri and Jack Rodwell ensure that the bench is strong, while in Matija Nastasic, they also have one of the brightest young defensive prospects in all of Europe. John Guidetti, who set the Dutch Eredivisie on fire while on loan at Feyenoord in the previous season, is still an unknown who could see more playing time this season.
Their past experience winning the FA Cup and the Premier League under previous manager Roberto Mancini will have stood them in good stead in terms of domestic cup competitions, while two excruciatingly tough Champions League campaigns will have been valuable experience.
The challenge now is to build on this excellent core and fulfill their potential as a team.
And at the helm of this team is a manager nicknamed "The Engineer” and known as a footballing genius.
Manuel Pellegrini, who arrived in the offseason from Malaga, was most recently notable for his achievements taking them into the Spanish top four and then to the quarterfinals of the Champions League, where they were eliminated by eventual runners-up Borussia Dortmund.
Prior to his stint at Malaga, Pellegrini achieved 96 La Liga points with Real Madrid—their highest-ever tally—in a generally underrated season at the helm of the Spanish giants which was largely in the shadow of Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering Barcelona side, despite Real signing the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Xabi Alonso.
But it was at Villarreal CF that Pellegrini made his name, taking the club into the upper echelons of Spanish football and also turning them into Champions League underdogs.
And now he takes his considerable expertise to Manchester City in a league in which he has never managed, but where he will be able to, for perhaps the first time, take control of the most high-profile side in the country, with the highest expectations (more on that later).
What comes next for a good club who wants to become great?
Pellegrini will work on instilling an exceptional work ethic and an attractive playing style at the Etihad Stadium—something he has done with his previous teams—and perhaps that push will see them realize their potential.
Till now, we haven’t addressed the actual possibility of a treble for City, and that’s because the context needs to be considered in addition to the developments at the club itself.
Looking at his direct competitors, one of the most intriguing matchups that sadly won’t come to fruition is Pellegrini against Sir Alex Ferguson. Unfortunately, Ferguson's retirement at Manchester United means that David Moyes will be in the United hot seat come the next derby.
The Red Devils will want to ensure that the transition is as smooth as possible, but the undeniable fact is that in Ferguson’s retirement, United have lost part of their enduring appeal, folklore and legend.
Chelsea, as expected, let go of interim manager Rafael Benitez in the offseason and salvaged a Europa League win as well as a top-four finish. But now, in their first real rebuilding season, they have installed former favorite Jose Mourinho, who is the Blue’s winningest manager with a track record of bringing instant success.
Their signings have thus far focused on youth and quality, which hints at an emphasis on a sustainable future, while Mourinho’s last, trophyless season at Real Madrid underwhelmed and took some of the gloss off his own legend.
Over at the Emirates Stadium, Arsene Wenger has been dithering about on a potential move for Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain, who if signed would provide the marquee name and goals to fire Arsenal up the table. With considerable doubt over the Gunners’ transfer policy, however, the now-longest-serving manager in the Premier League will have lots of work to do.
So the immediate context in the Premier League combines to provide a favorable environment for City to take advantage of this season—the City hierarchy knows it, and if Pellegrini somehow hasn’t figured this out yet, he will soon.
The pressure starts from day one, but is a domestic treble—which includes the Premier League, the FA Cup and the League Cup—in reach?
Considering Pellegrini’s track record in knockout competitions, the answer is an emphatic "yes."
Given the pedigree and obvious ambition of City and Pellegrini, they could be forgiven for using the League Cup as a breeding ground for youngsters and as valuable game time for their squad members.
But that doesn’t mean they won’t be looking at another treble possibility.
Unfancied underdogs in Europe—just as his predecessor Roberto Mancini claimed them to be this week, according to Sky Sports—City, even with their considerable financial muscle, want to make the climb into the Champions League knockout stages.
A realm that Pellegrini just so happens to be familiar with, and even he hasn’t experienced winning it yet.
With a squad as talented and as strong as Manchester City’s, if they get through a favorable group-stage draw, how far they go in the subsequent rounds in 2014 is anyone’s guess.