Bacary Sagna: The Champions League is between Man City and PSG
The former Manchester City full-back reveals his favourites for the 2022/23 Champions League.
Former Arsenal and Man City full-back Bacary Sagna gives his verdict on this season's Champions League favourites, including Champions League betting favourites Manchester City.
What is more important: winning the league title or the Champions League?
For me, there is more value in the league title.
People might say I’m crazy but winning the league represents the amount of work and effort you put in through a full season and rewards the best teams.
In the Champions League anything can happen. Last year was the perfect example when, for me, Manchester City were a better team than Real Madrid but Madrid put City out in the last 10 minutes.
Ten minutes doesn’t represent a team, whereas the league season is a full campaign, every weekend, every training session. It takes more than 300 days of full commitment.
Winning the Champions league is crazy, but that’s why I would give more value to the league.
PSG have started the season brilliantly, so do you think they look more ready to compete for the Champions League?
Paris have always had fantastic players but this season what makes the difference is that everybody is respecting the tempo of the game.
They are playing one-touch football and this is why Neymar is back to his top level. What he can do best is playing to PSG’s strengths – he can play control, pass, shoot or whatever in two touches.
He can do beautiful skills but we’re not seeing so many of them. He’s very efficient, and all of them – he, Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe – are playing direct football and it’s helped the balance of the team a lot.
They are sharper and quicker than they have been before.
The whole club seem to have got rid of the little problems that were always in the media. All the noise about dressing room politics can make it difficult but they seem to have calmed it down.
I’m also really happy that they now have a French manager, Christophe Galtier. He already knows the French language, the French league and he knows how to connect to the club.
It can take more time for a coach from the outside to understand the French culture and how to manage the club.
He’s won the title with Lille and everywhere he’s been, his team has performed. Even when he hasn’t had a big envelope of money to spend on players, he’s done a fantastic job.
Can you explain how Real Madrid came through so many close ties to win the Champions League last season? Can they do it again?
Well for me, Real Madrid are the best club in the world.
You can bring any player to the club and they will stick to its philosophies. The club is stronger than any player and they continue to show it, no matter how many huge names play for them.
The fact that they managed to win like they did last year was crazy, because when you watch the match against Chelsea, for example, you think that the game is gone.
Mentally it takes a lot for them to come back and win the game, but they are capable of it. Against Paris, they’re facing good players and at 1-0 down have to score three goals. Not many teams can do it. And they managed to do it in a short period of time, too.
And then the game against Man City, which was unbelievable. Even if I believe that they were not the best team by the way they played, they ended up champions. This is the mark of big champions and big clubs.
Of course they could win it again, because that is what they do as a club.
Talking of Man City, why do you think they have fallen short in the Champions League so far?
I don’t know, it’s difficult to understand.
I believe confidence is important, because the game against Real Madrid was gone, it was finished.
I remember not understanding why they were playing the game so fast, they needed to slow it down. And they were not quick enough to close down the cross that came into the box from Real Madrid for the equaliser.
It’s a lack of focus. They could have dealt with this situation a better way. They need to learn how to see out the wins in these big games and that requires concentration for every minute of every game.
It’s the beauty of football. It can be easy as long as you respect it, but you can be punished if you don’t. It’s all about details. And I think at the end of that Real Madrid tie they were just not careful enough of the small details against big, clever players.
How disappointing will it be if Pep Guardiola never wins the Champions League with them?
I don’t think about it because, to me, they will. I don’t know when, but it will surely happen.
They have extra pressure because whenever they reach the final, it won’t be about the game. Everybody will be talking about Pep, putting pressure on Pep. Is he good enough to win this?
And when they don’t, everybody talks about the money and how much certain players cost, which isn’t fair. The focus should be on what the team does on the pitch, not about the investment and whether they will have failed if they don’t win with such an expensive team.
You have to remember how many times Pep’s teams have reached the semi-finals and final of the Champions League. To be there at the end of the competition so often says a lot.
It’s not easy to keep a team at a high level for so long. Everybody says that it’s easy because of the money, but no. You have to deal with so much. The emotions, the characters and everything.
When he is consistently getting his teams to the end of the Champions League it is an amazing achievement.
I don’t think he can ever be called a failure. When he was my manager, I could not believe the attention to detail that goes into everything.
Every single training session is important, every single detail is there. If you don’t perform on the pitch you are to blame, because he has given you everything you need.
To me, if City just deal with the pressure a bit better they will definitely win it soon.
As an Arsenal man, what do you think Tottenham are capable of? Does it worry you to see them looking strong?
I don’t want to hear about Tottenham!
No, only joking. I respect the club and they deserve a lot of credit for what they did to finish in the top four last season.
I remember Tottenham from before, when I played for Arsenal, and it’s now a different club. Different vibe, different environment, different level of professionalism.
And even if I’m Arsenal inside, I respect Tottenham. I respect the fact that they are now an amazing club with fantastic facilities and players.
I’m a football lover. I know Tottenham are a quality team and I want to watch quality games – but I might change the channel after a few minutes!
So who do you think will win the Champions League?
For me, it is between Man City and PSG.
Hopefully they don’t play each other before because that would be an amazing final. That game would be crazy.
You have amazing players on both sides. Neymar, Mbappe, Kevin de Bruyne, Erling Haaland, they always keep the same level. They’re so consistent.
For me, they are the two outstanding teams and one of them will win it for the first time.