Ex-chairman salutes the team spirit that brought Premier League glory to the Etihad Stadium for the first time but feels that new recruits are needed for a tilt at Champions League
By Rob Stewart
Manchester City legend Francis Lee hailed the spirit that propelled Roberto Mancini's side to Premier League glory on Sunday, but warned the Italian that he will need to invest in as many as three world-class players this summer if they are to prosper in next season's Champions League.
The former club chairman, who helped City win their last previous domestic title in 1968, saluted Mancini’s charges for their sensational last-gasp success but has insisted that top-quality reinforcements will be needed when the summer transfer window opens for the club to realise their European ambitions.
"To win the FA Cup and then to win the Premier League shows that Roberto Mancini has done a fantastic job," Lee told Goal.com.
"He has a team that plays with tremendous spirit and that spirit was underlined most vividly when they played Manchester United in the FA Cup this year [on January 8]. Vincent Kompany was sent off after 10 minutes and then they went on to outplay United for the rest of the game. That team spirit was there for all to see again yesterday.
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"They can go forward from here. They are a very powerful team. They are a very fit team and there is a lot of talent in there – three or four big-time players and I can only see them going further and further forward.
"I am not saying that other teams will not go with them but the future is very bright for them."
City have been linked with Arsenal skipper Robin van Persie and are being tipped to sign Lille playmaker Eden Hazard this summer as Mancini prepares to go for glory on four fronts and Lee believes that he will have learned from this season's Champions League campaign, when they crashed out of the competition in the group phase.
"I think the biggest challenge facing City next season will be about how well they can do in the Champions League because they were a little bit iffy in that competition this year," he added.
“I think that with two or three additions to the squad they could really go places.
"It is numbers that they need of the top quality. You say you need one full-back, one centre-back, one top-class midfielder and one top-class striker. Those are the types of additions you need to your team. If you are going on the long slog of the Premier League, plus the Champions League, plus the cup competitions you need a lot of players.
"City were drawn in what they call the 'Group of Death' alongside Bayern Munich and Napoli which was very difficult, not only with it being the group phase but also because it was the first time City had ever been in the Champions League.
"Next time around I am certain that they will handle the challenges that the Champions League presents a lot better. This time Mancini has been finding out about his players and finding out who is good enough to play in the Champions League.
"One of the most important things he will have learned is that if you are going to rotate your players, don’t do it in the big games. Rotate in the League Cup or the earlier rounds of the FA Cup and things like that because he did change the side when he had the big games in the Champions League and it cost them."
68-year-old Lee saw City end 44 years of heartache when Sergio Aguero struck a dramatic stoppage-time winner against QPR to pip Manchester United to the title.
"It was an unbelievable ending because we were sitting in the Etihad Stadium thinking we had lost the league when Manchester United had won at Sunderland. City were still behind and within two minutes it had all changed round and we had won it and United had lost it," Lee continued.
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"I was sitting with Richard Scudamore, the chief executive of the Premier League, and at half-time I said to him that it wasn't much of a advert for the Premier League because QPR weren't trying to score and then it was the complete reverse with that finale. You could not plan a finish like that."
Many observers are tipping City to go on to surpass United as the Premier League’s dominant force but Lee feels that it is impossible to predict with competition due to intensify next term.
"You cannot foresee domination. Domination only comes when you have witnessed it. It is not something that you can plan for. It only comes when you have actually achieved it," he warned.
"I don’t think it will get any harder for them. It has always been hard to win the Premier League. Anyone who is sitting on the Premier League everyone wants to try to beat them and I think there will be a tremendous amount of competition again next year."