Livescore Thursday, April 25
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It was 8am in Istanbul and Manchester City’s English contingent were still going strong — Kyle Walker, Jack Grealish, John Stones and, well, Erling Haaland.

He may have grown up in Norway, Haaland, but he was born in Leeds and in the small hours of Sunday morning he demonstrated that particularly British trait of celebrating success with a heavy night of drinking — at 6am he was on the DJ decks, puffing on one of the largest cigars known to man.

And well he might — Manchester City have won the treble, their victory over Inter at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium adding the Champions League not just to the Premier League and FA Cup that they sealed in May, but all the trophies that have come before.

They have won the league title three years in a row, only the fifth-ever English team to do so, to make it five in six years under Pep Guardiola. Four Carabao Cups in a row, too. An unprecedented domestic treble. The Champions League is the icing on a very large cake, the final validation, and everybody knew it.

“We’ve had subdued parties up until now, but now we can really enjoy it for a couple of days – as we should,” Kevin De Bruyne told the world’s media around 2am local time.

Manchester City secure the treble…

The celebrations that had started on the pitch and continued in the dressing room were moving to their hotel, the JW Marriott in the Bakirkoy district of Istanbul, a 30-minute drive from the Ataturk.

As De Bruyne was talking, he was interrupted by the sound of Fleetwood Mac’s Everywhere, which the City fans have adopted as their anthem this season. Grealish was walking through the interview area with a ghetto blaster in hand, belting out ‘We’re Man City and we’re on the piss again” (he censored himself as he leant into De Bruyne’s microphone) and finished at the door with a big “AWOOOOO!”

Rodri lined up and waited for De Bruyne to finish talking and let out a sarcastic “finally!” when he did. Haaland then came and waited for Rodri to finish talking, started mock-snoring, got bored and left.

By that point Brandon Ashton, a beloved kitman, had done his customary dressing room belly-slide in his underwear, just as he had done at Wembley the week before. Only this time his head nearly went clean inside the Champions League trophy.

The video had been posted on Instagram, much to his chagrin. “I never intended it to go this far!” he joked on his way out of the stadium. It is part of tradition now.

Walker had done an Instagram Live video from the dressing room, in which captain Ilkay Gundogan appeared, blow-drying his hair wearing only a towel. Walker then sat next to Ruben Dias, who was colossal on the pitch, and said that the pair were “Jackson and Miles”, seemingly a pair of chimpanzees from a Netflix documentary. Dias said he was Walker’s right-hand man and that the team were safe in their hands — hard to argue with.

Last week at Wembley the players danced on the pitch to Freed From Desire by Gala, changing the words to “Gundo’s on fire, your defence is terrified” and when it came to the drop, Rodri did a massive jump and crashed his hand down to tee up the City fans to continue the “na na na na na na”. In the dressing room at the Ataturk, it was Rodri himself who was the subject, with Grealish and kit man Ashton making sure everybody recognised his winning goal.

When it came to the drop, this time the players and staff jumped around in a huddle, with Phil Foden’s four-year-old son, Ronnie, bouncing up and down on his dad’s shoulders.

Walker planted a big kiss on the Champions League trophy after collecting his winners’ medal and was a big part of the celebrations. He later sprinted at full pelt to win a race having given his competitors — some children — a considerable head start. He would have been delighted to get on for the final 10-or-so minutes after his good friend Stones went off injured. He was left “gutted” by his omission from the starting line-up and was desperate to play at least some part in City’s final success.

At Wembley last weekend Riyad Mahrez, who did not get on the pitch, largely stayed apart from City’s on-field celebrations and while he hit out at a suggestion on Twitter that this was a sign of his unhappiness, those present say he was down about not being able to contribute, especially because he had scored a hat-trick in the semi-final.

He did not get on on Saturday, either, and soon after the final whistle Guardiola sought him out to give him a big hug — the City boss has been cut up about leaving the Algerian out of his line-up in recent weeks, preferring instead to go with Bernardo Silva.

Mahrez and Aymeric Laporte, another who did not feature in either final, had their picture taken together with the Champions League trophy and they could both leave the club this summer. Laporte said he could not talk about his future at Wembley, having cried his eyes out after City lifted the Premier League trophy against Chelsea at the end of May.

There were tears on the pitch, too, with Grealish choking up in television interviews and Haaland in floods of tears at full time. On June 10 2022, he posted two pictures of himself as a child wearing a City kit with the caption, ‘To be continued…’ and a year later, to the day, he had won the treble.

The fact that he was one of the last men standing at the party and worse for wear long after the sun had risen over Turkey is testament to this achievement; while those who stayed with him are celebration veterans, the 22-year-old generally does not drink and has actually told Grealish not to go out drinking. They have become very close and on Saturday were both up on the decks, with the England winger doing the shout-outs and inviting others up on stage.

This is exactly how Guardiola wants it to be: in recent weeks he has allowed his team to savour the moment even with huge games on the horizon.

In 2018, when City clinched their first title under Guardiola, he had the players back in for training the next day despite their celebrations that night, so desperate was he to get to the 100-point mark. Not that it stopped some players turning up after two hours’ sleep and uncorking a bottle of champagne at breakfast.

This time they have been free to enjoy themselves, despite looming finals in London and Istanbul, only needing to report for recovery sessions to ensure their bodies were at least a little bit fresher than their minds.

“You have to enjoy victories, you have to celebrate them and those who like to drink have to drink because it’s very difficult to work for 10, 11 months and not remember a title, you have to make the best of it,” Ederson said ahead of Saturday’s final about striking the right balance between serious preparation and serious partying.

The Brazilian is one of those who knows how to take advantage and was also one of the last to turn it in on Sunday morning. In fact, he was still drinking a beer as he boarded the team bus to the airport. He had bet a Brazilian reporter that he would shave off his goatee, and the reporter’s moustache, if City won the final, and they got the clippers out shortly after full time.

“We got a break and the players knew how to take advantage,” he added.

After lifting the Premier League trophy against Chelsea on May 21, City’s players started in the ‘tunnel club’ VIP area at the Etihad Stadium before moving to MNKY HSE, a Latin American restaurant/nightclub in the city centre, where Haaland joined chefs in the kitchen and Rodri sang Queen. Then it was all back to Guardiola’s for an after-party in his kitchen.

Last weekend at Wembley, they went to the Hilton and maybe De Bruyne says the celebrations were ‘subdued’ because he was not there.

“I have to say after the cup game on Saturday I just went home,” he said last week. “My wife had to do some stuff somewhere else so I came home, had the three kids and just enjoyed a couple of days off in the sun and played games and played football and that was it.”

The players certainly enjoyed their victory over Manchester United and partied hard.

Guardiola even says he was more ‘over-happy’ about that victory than he was lifting the Champions League trophy, 12 years on from the previous one. This was the thing that supposedly kept him up at night, something he needed to do to dodge an unfair “failure” tag like the one attached to his time at Bayern Munich.

Two weeks ago, while his players had two days off ahead of the FA Cup final, he spent most of his time watching clips of Inter.

It was all geared towards this night and it is easy to imagine Guardiola really cutting loose at getting his hands on the trophy again, especially considering that when City drew their semi-final 1-1 with Real Madrid in the Santiago Bernabeu, far from a result or performance that moved them dramatically closer to the final, they had a party in the Spanish capital and the manager enjoyed himself as much as anybody else.

For the second leg, he drafted in Juanma Lillo, who left his role as Guardiola’s assistant last summer, to offer some extra expertise and he was with the team again in Istanbul in their preparations for the final.

This was a huge night for Guardiola but, while he went to the party, he largely stayed out of the way and spent the time with his family and friends, such as his former assistants Lillo and Domenec Torrent, to the extent that several guests say they never knew he was there.

In fact, some say the celebrations after the FA Cup final surpassed those in Istanbul; they were more joyous, more exuberant.

As much as the players celebrated their Champions League and will continue to do so — there was yet another party in Manchester on Sunday night, at Tattu in Spinningfields, and after their trophy parade on Monday they will have yet another, with all club staff, at Depot Mayfield — those who were around the celebrations immediately after the game say many of the squad, and the manager, simply looked drained.

“Almost empty,” one source who was on the pitch with them says. “Everybody was emotionally shattered,” says another.

After the cup final, they were delighted to have beaten United and kept the treble dream alive. The closer that the treble came to reality, though, the more it might have begun to weigh them down.

Before the game it was tempting to see the defeat to Chelsea in 2021, their first Champions League final, almost as a necessary bitter experience that gave them a better understanding of how these occasions work, and that they would be much better prepared this time around.

“We didn’t lose the final, we just got one step closer,” as Ruben Dias said ahead of their 3-0 victory over Bayern.

And yet they looked just as nervous as they did last time for much of the first half, improved in the second, scored through Rodri, rallied for a bit and then had to dig in to, just about, withstand an Inter barrage.

“It looks like this competition was written in the stars,” Guardiola said afterwards, because he felt that Inter deserved to have equalised. “Do not mistake how happy I am,” he added.

He was asked about what he said to his players before the game, given he had compiled a montage of his Barcelona side’s best moments and played Coldplay’s Viva La Vida over the top of it before they beat United at Wembley in 2011, his last triumph in the competition.

“Nothing,” he said. “Not even one word. Nothing.

“We feel more comfortable preparing the game as if it were a Premier League game, we have done the same, we have done nothing, nothing, nothing special. Absolute normality.”

It was Walker, despite his disappointment, who delivered a speech to his team-mates, telling them, “My dream is in your hands”. He said that they had come too far this season to fail now.

And during the final, it became clear just how patched-up some of the players had been during the run-in. After beating Real Madrid 4-0 at the Etihad, Guardiola was planning for one final assault on Chelsea with his strongest team to secure victory and seal the title. As soon as Nottingham Forest beat Arsenal to confirm City as champions, though, he completely changed his plans and brought in those closer to the fringes of the squad.

There was a stronger team against Brighton but Dias, De Bruyne, Grealish and Manuel Akanji stayed back in Manchester and, while they did not make the trip to Brentford either, they were all back in for the two finals. Bernardo had an ice pack on his calf during the post-match celebrations at Wembley, but that was presumably not too serious because Dias walked up to him and kicked the affected area.

De Bruyne’s issue was more serious: he had missed two games at the start of May because of fatigue in his hamstring and he knew from then on that it could go at any moment: in the first half on Saturday, he ruptured it. At the full-time whistle, Foden pointed to him and said: “For you.”

Stones went off injured too, having gone down to his haunches on a couple of occasions before half-time, but did at least make it to the closing stages. Grealish was lucky, in that sense, not to aggravate the hip injury that he has been carrying, although he did say after the game that he was ‘Awful’, which was more generous than Rodri’s assessment of his own performance: ‘Shit’.

After the match, Rodri dedicated the trophy to former players like Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Vincent Kompany and Fernandinho. Aguero was in the stadium and celebrated Rodri’s winner with Carlos Tevez, while Fernandinho made an appearance at the hotel party.

The Brazilian left the club only last summer and was described as “delighted” for his former team-mates, although he was careful to stay separate from their main group, much like Guardiola did.

City had always planned the night to include as many former players as possible, to ensure everybody feel part of the night and the success, inviting the likes of Gael Clichy, Bacary Sagna, Joleon Lescott, Nedum Onuoha, Eyal Berkovic, Ali Benarbia and Aguero to take part in their match-day coverage, with Manchester City Women players Steph Houghton and Esme Morgan also involved.

Some senior executives missed out on the party because of delays leaving the stadium, but it was open to club staff who had made the trip and any family members, meaning there were hundreds of people in attendance. There was free beer and champagne in abundance, with City’s three trophies available to have pictures taken alongside.

Sporting director Txiki Begiristain, CEO Ferran Soriano and chief operations officer Omar Berrada made relatively early exits — considering the team did not leave the stadium until gone 2am — but many soldiered on until the bitter end and made their way directly to the airport.

By Sunday lunchtime, pictures had surfaced of Grealish and Bernardo lying down across their plane seats with the trophy in their hands, Grealish still wearing his match kit from the night before.

When they beat Aston Villa on the final day of last season, coming back from 2-0 down with 20 minutes to go, their victory parade was the very next day and many of the players partied through the night and did not sleep.

This time they will have an extra day before the parade, an extra party in the middle and two extra trophies on board. It is too early to look ahead to next season, but there will be more celebrations to come. That much is for sure.

(Photo: Tom Flathers/Manchester City FC via Getty Images)



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