Manchester City's 2018-19 season concluded with players celebrating on the Wembley turf last weekend, just like it did 20 years previously.

The parallels end there.

While Pep Guardiola's all-conquering domestic treble winners spent the campaign pushing to higher levels of excellence, their counterparts from two decades ago often threatened to chart new depths of farce - or "Cityitis", as then manager Joe Royle termed it.

Treble fever also hit Manchester in 1999, but for United and Alex Ferguson, who famously added a last-gasp injury-time triumph in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich to Premier League and FA Cup glory.

Meanwhile, City were grappling with life in Division Two – the third tier of English football – for the first time in their history.

"It is unthinkable now but it was only 20 years ago, a generation ago," said Nicky Weaver, the former England Under-21 goalkeeper who would end his breakthrough campaign in 1998-99 as City's saviour. "They're at Wembley every other week now."

"It was my first season playing, so for me it was just a thrill to be involved in it all. The fans probably didn't think so, going to places like York and Colchester and Lincoln and Macclesfield and places like that.

"It took us four or five months to get into our stride. I think everyone thought it was going to be a lot easier than it was."

City had been in the Premier League as recently as 1996 but two relegations in three seasons sapped morale at their tired former home of Maine Road.

A 3-0 win over Blackpool on the opening day of the season proved a false dawn as a bloated and ill-equipped squad slogged away with mixed results. Across town, United were heading for the footballing stratosphere.

A December loss at York City left Royle's pre-season promotion favourites 12th in the table and in danger of slipping into oblivion. However, no-nonsense captain Andy Morrison came in to add some steel to the backline and the corner was turned in the nick of time.

"I remember going to Wrexham on Boxing Day," Weaver said, of a game when Dutch defender Gerard Wiekens scored the only goal for City. "Ian Rush was playing for Wrexham. That was a big thing for me at the time, playing against someone like Ian Rush.

"We won 1-0 and then we beat Stoke at Maine Road and went on a really good run."

Regular goals from Shaun Goater, wing wizardry from United loanee Terry Cooke and Weaver's increasingly sharp keeping were all factors as Royle's men stormed up to third.

Automatic promotion proved out of their reach but, after a tense semi-final against Wigan Athletic was negotiated 2-1 on aggregate, Wembley – of the twin towers vintage - awaited.

Tony Pulis' Gillingham were betting outsiders but ‘Cityitis’ struck again as Carl Asaba and Robert Taylor beat Weaver with late goals. It was 2-0 heading into the final minute of the 90 and many of the Manchester contingent were heading for the exits when Kevin Horlock lashed in an apparent consolation.

Then came some hope from the touchline.

"I always thought the biggest thing was the five minutes of injury time. That was a little bit dubious," Weaver chuckled.

"Mark Halsey [referee] is a very popular man in these parts! I've got images of Tony Pulis going mad on the bench."

If Pulis was going mad there was full-scale pandemonium in the City end shortly afterwards when Paul Dickov steered a finish past a familiar face in Vince Bartram, best man at the City striker's wedding, in the Gillingham goal – an 'Aguero moment' before such a thing existed.

Extra time passed without incident before Weaver took the virtue of inexperience into the penalty shoot-out.

"I don't think I'd even been in one in a school tournament," he said. "Nowadays, you look at where the last few penalties have been, you have all the information and statistics.

"There was none of that then. I just thought, 'make yourself look as big as you can, pick a way and go that way'.

The method worked as Weaver thwarted Paul Smith, while Adrian Pennock blazed high and wide. Successes from Horlock, Cooke and - despite not having a senior goal to his name - Richard Edghill meant Guy Butters had to beat Weaver, or City were up and out of the abyss.

"He hit it well enough. It wasn't right in the corner but he got plenty of power on it," the goalkeeper recalled.

"Fortunately, I managed to get two hands on it. I waved the lads over and sort of pulled a face. I don't know where that came from."

Weaver's delirious celebration – halted only by a typically robust intervention from Morrison – is still fondly remembered by City supporters to this day, despite their vastly altered reality.

"If City had just been a mediocre Premier League club now, no-one would talk about it as much as they do, but the fact of where they are and where they have come from, it just makes the story so much bigger and so much better," Weaver said.

"If we hadn't done it, who knows what would have happened? It certainly wouldn't have been any easier.

"The new stadium followed a few years later, and then obviously the big investment came after that. If the stadium hadn't come, the investment might not have come and we might not have been sat here."

For all that Guardiola's unprecedented success is rooted in meticulous attention to detail, it owes a significant debt to the guess work of an unassuming terrace hero.

Benfica will not sell teenage forward Joao Felix unless his full €120million release clause is met, according to club chief Domingos Soares de Oliveira.

Joao Felix scored 15 Primeira Liga goals in a breakout season, reportedly attracting the attention of several top European clubs - including Premier League pair Manchester City and Manchester United.

But the 19-year-old has a significant release clause in his contract and Benfica do not plan to let the player move for anything less.

Indeed, Soares de Oliveira insists Benfica are in no rush to part with the Portugal youth international, not even for €100m.

"Selling for the release clause is what we are trying to do," Benfica's chief executive officer told TVI24. "If Joao Felix is to leave for another club, we are looking for them to meet the clause.

"But hopefully that will not happen. The aim is to keep the squad together.

"If someone bids €100m for Joao Felix, the intention is not to sell. €100m is a lot of money - there has never been a player sold for that amount in Portugal - but the aim is to win on the pitch.

"We will do everything to move in that direction. If they do not bid €120m, the player stays."

Soares de Oliveira added that there is still the possibility Benfica will look to alter the release clause, though Felix's interests must be considered in any negotiations.

"I believe the president still has the intention to review it," he said. "But on the other side, there is the player, the agent, the family.

"What we have to consider is the potential of the player, as long as we can convince the other club.

"No offer has come. There are talks and rumours - the biggest European clubs have been linked - but no proposal has come to us."

And Soares de Oliveira adds that Benfica do not necessarily now need to sell their top players, as was the case in previous years.

"The financial situation is more robust than in the past, but still the sale remains part of the business," he said. "[Outgoing players] do not need to be the starters."

Leroy Sane joining Bayern Munich would be welcomed by Germany head coach Joachim Low after Bayern Munich again stated their interest in the Manchester City winger.

Bayern are reported to be readying an €80million bid for Germany international Sane.

The 23-year-old scored 10 goals and supplied as many assists as City defended their Premier League title as part of a domestic treble this season, including strikes in the pivotal wins over Liverpool and Manchester United.

But Pep Guardiola frequently left Sane on the bench during the closing weeks of the campaign, preferring Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva as his first-choice wide attackers.

A spell out of favour evoked memories of the player's shock omission from Germany's 2018 World Cup squad, although Low has since brought Sane back into the fold and believes a switch to Bayern could be beneficial for all parties.

Speaking at the Sport Bild 100 summit, Low said: "If the transfer happened it would be a good story for him, for Bayern, for the national team and for the Bundesliga."

Later at the same event, Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge suggested Bayern would press to bring in Sane – as they did three years ago when he joined City from Schalke for a reported initial fee of £37m.

"There have not been any talks so far. He's an interesting player and we will try," Rummenigge said. "I cannot promise whether it will succeed."

Rummenigge went on to state that the departure of veteran wingers and club greats Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery creates an opening Sane would not have enjoyed when he left Schalke.

"We already had the idea when he was still with Schalke," he added.

"But at the time we did not have a guaranteed regular place for him. Robben and Ribery were the top of the top three years ago."

Massimiliano Allegri has claimed his Juventus successor will be "a manager of Manchester" amid speculation linking Pep Guardiola with a shock move to Turin.

On Thursday, Italian news agency AGI reported Manchester City boss Guardiola had agreed a four-year contract worth €24million annually to take over at Serie A champions Juve, claiming the deal will be announced on June 4 before a presentation 10 days later.

Speaking before City completed an unprecedented domestic treble by hammering Watford 6-0 in last weekend's FA Cup final, Guardiola insisted he had no intention of moving to Juventus and club board member Alberto Galassi told Sky Italia the renewed reports were "a load of nonsense".

However, Allegri made a mischievous contribution to the saga when he attended a restaurant opening in Dairago, Milan.

Local newspaper Sport Legnano reported Allegri was asked by a Juventus fan who the club's next head coach would be and he replied: "A manager of Manchester is coming."

Allegri confirmed last week he would leave Juventus after guiding them to a fifth consecutive Scudetto this term.

Success in the Champions League proved elusive for the former AC Milan boss, however, with Ajax ending the Italian club’s interest at the quarter-final stage this time around, following final losses to Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively in 2015 and 2017 finals.

Guardiola has two years remaining on his current City contract and has swept to five of the previous six major domestic honours on offer in England.

Vincent Kompany was chosen as the new player-coach of Anderlecht after one six-hour meeting with the club, according to technical director Frank Arnesen.

It was announced last Sunday that the Manchester City captain would return to his childhood club in the close-season after 11 years at the Etihad Stadium, having won his fourth Premier League title this term as part of a domestic treble.

Arnesen has revealed the process behind hiring the Belgian centre-back and believes the 33-year-old can restore the club to their former place as the country's leading side.

"We went to City and we had a meeting with [Kompany] for six hours," Arnesen told Sky Sports News.

"I was really amazed and when we went home after this meeting I fully agreed.

"There are so many ups and so few downs. Anderlecht is on the floor at the moment. That is why I came in four months ago.

"Vincent as a player will not bring us one step ahead, [but] maybe three, four steps ahead. We have no leaders.

"Everything football-wise is fantastic [with his appointment]. I was very impressed with his explanation about the philosophy, how we will do and what he is doing.

"Vincent said I will do it about four weeks ago."

Anderlecht, who have won only one of their 10 matches in the First Division A since the start of the Championship play-off round, are 20 points behind leaders Genk.

Manchester City winger Leroy Sane is a target for Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, club president Uli Hoeness has confirmed.

The 23-year-old has shone since moving to the Etihad Stadium from Schalke three years ago, but found himself down the pecking order towards the end of the Premier League season.

Bayern are in the market for reinforcements on the flanks, with Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben both drawing a curtain on their illustrious careers at the Allianz Arena at the end of the campaign.

Speculation has increased over the previous few weeks that they were looking to Germany international Sane as a potential signing.

 

From us all at #FCBayern, DANKE! @R13_official @FranckRibery@ArjenRobben pic.twitter.com/cl9KG92soi

— #MEIS7ER (@FCBayernEN) May 23, 2019

When asked by Suddeutsche Zeitung about Bayern's interest in Sane, Hoeness replied: "We are considering him."

Hoeness' revelation comes just a day after star striker Robert Lewandowski claimed Sane could "immediately take us higher".

Bayern have also been linked with RB Leipzig star Timo Werner and Atletico Madrid midfielder Rodri.

A report that Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has agreed to take over Juventus is "a load of nonsense", according to a member of the Premier League champions' board.

Italian news agency AGI claimed on Thursday that Juve had reached an agreement with Guardiola for him to succeed Massimiliano Allegri, whose departure was announced last week, as head coach.

According to the outlet, the Catalan was set to sign a four-year deal worth €24million per season with the Bianconeri on June 4 and be presented to the media 10 days later.

However, City Football Group executive Alberto Galassi categorically rejected the rumour and stated Guardiola wishes to stay at the Etihad Stadium, something the manager said himself prior to last weekend's FA Cup final against Watford.

"As a Manchester City board member, I was very surprised to read such a load of nonsense," Galassi told Sky Sport Italia.

"Firstly, our coach wants to stay and has another two years on his contract. Secondly, any club like Juventus would never have allowed the release of such news.

"It is not possible to think that there will be a presentation in a few days and that City is unaware of it before they have even contacted us. It is totally groundless and false.

"[Guardiola] is a great professional and he can't believe his words are not listened to. He does not want to leave. Therefore, the problem does not exist because the whole matter does not exist."

Galassi confirmed he has spoken with Juve vice-chairman Pavel Nedved about the rumours.

He added: "We had a laugh. We both realised the issue had become ridiculous. I'm sorry for Juventus fans, but they will need to find another coach. Let Pep enjoy his holidays."

Ilkay Gundogan has no doubt Manchester City will do their best to fight off reported interest from Bayern Munich and keep Leroy Sane.

Germany international Sane is said to be a target for the Bundesliga champions, who are expected to be busy in the transfer market during the close season.

Bayern will be looking to strengthen on the wings due to the departures of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben and the 23-year-old is thought to be a primary target after seeing his number of Premier League starts drop from 27 to 21 this season.

But Pep Guardiola last week said City are keen to extend Sane's contract beyond 2021 and Gundogan is unconcerned by the speculation about his team-mate's future.

"If players of his quality do not play at one time or another, it has become normal that there are automatic rumours," Gundogan told Sport Bild.

"As our manager has already said, the club wants to keep Leroy.

"I know Leroy very well and know that he can and will prevail anywhere."

Gundogan, whose own future had been shrouded in doubt, told Bild after City completed a domestic treble by adding the FA Cup to their Premier League and EFL Cup triumphs on Saturday he intended to re-open contract talks with the club.

Manchester City star Raheem Sterling wants to hold talks with the Football Association (FA) and Premier League about tackling racism.

England forward Sterling has this season been vocal on the issue since suffering alleged racist abuse from Chelsea fans during a 2-0 loss in December, criticising the media's coverage of black players and speaking out in support of other footballers that have been targeted.

The 24-year-old in April backed an anti-racism manifesto that included demands for harsher punishments and greater representation of black, Asian and minority ethnic people at a governance level throughout football.

Sterling, who, along with Danny Rose and Callum Hudson-Odoi, was also subjected to racist chanting during a Euro 2020 qualifier against Montenegro in March, hopes to have an opportunity to have a dialogue with English football's governing bodies during the close season.

"With football you can get caught up in training every day and games every two to three days so you don't really have a lot of time to be out speaking to people," said Sterling at the Wall Street Journal's Future of Everything Festival.

"But in my off-time, holidays if I can get to speak to the FA and people in the Premier League and see how we can look about doing things better in the future for sure I will be there in person to try and do that."

Sterling reiterated his desire to see a nine-point deduction handed to clubs whose fans are found to have racially abused players.

"There needs to be stricter punishments. If I go to a football game and I support Manchester United for example I do not want to be the person that lets my team down by saying silly remarks in the stadium," he said.

"If your team is going to be deducted nine points from them winning the league you are not going to say these racist remarks.

"Fining someone or fining a club £5,000 or fining a fan £300 doesn't do anything."

Vincent Kompany will feature for Manchester City one last time in a testimonial match to be played in September.

Kompany confirmed on Sunday that he will leave the club after 11 years in order to take up a player-manager role at former side Anderlecht.

The Belgian's last official game for City came in Saturday's 6-0 FA Cup final demolition of Watford, which completed an unprecedented domestic treble.

He said farewell to supporters during City's parade for FA Cup, Premier League and EFL Cup trophies on Monday, while coach Pep Guardiola insisted he would return to the club again one day.

Kompany will be back perhaps sooner than expected, as the club confirmed he will lead a 'City Legends' side against a Premier League 'All-Stars' team on September 11 at the Etihad Stadium.

The fixture will raise money for homeless charity Tackle4MCR, a foundation the defender helped set up along with Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham.

"City favourites from the recent past and present will play alongside the captain again, with some familiar Premier League stars of the past decade in direct opposition," the club said.

Paulo Dybala and Sergio Aguero have been included in Argentina's squad for the 2019 Copa America, but Mauro Icardi misses out after a difficult few months at Inter.

Icardi has failed to impress this year at club level, with a combination of contractual issues and injuries seeing him left out of the team and stripped of the captaincy.

He scored for only the second time in 2019 during Inter's 4-1 defeat to Napoli on Sunday, but both of those goals have come from the penalty spot and he did little to catch the eye in general.

Manchester City star Aguero is in the squad, however, returning to the selection for the first time since Argentina's disappointing World Cup campaign, when he scored two goals in four games.

Aguero has enjoyed another strong season at club level and will be confident of transferring that form to the Copa, where he will be joined with City team-mate Nicolas Otamendi.

Dybala also makes the cut despite an underwhelming campaign with Juventus, in which he seemed to suffer from the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Lionel Messi is expected to captain the team as one of the senior stars, while Matias Suarez – also 31 years of age – is a surprise inclusion among the strikers, with the River Plate man having won his only two senior caps this year.

There is also a shock in defence, with Milton Casco chosen ahead of Gabriel Mercado, a mainstay over the past few years.

Manchester United pair Sergio Romero and Marcos Rojo also miss out.

Argentina will play Colombia, Paraguay and Qatar in the group stage of the tournament in Brazil.

 

Argentina squad in full:

Franco Armani (River Plate), Agustin Marchesin (Club America), Esteban Andrada (Boca Juniors); Juan Foyth (Tottenham), Nicolas Tagliafico (Ajax), Renzo Saravia (Racing Club), German Pezzella (Fiorentina), Ramiro Funes Mori (Villarreal), Milton Casco (River Plate), Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City); Roberto Pereyra (Watford), Leandro Paredes (Paris Saint-Germain), Marcos Acuna (Sporting CP), Angel Di Maria (Paris Saint-Germain), Guido Rodriguez (Club America), Rodrigo De Paul (Udinese), Exequiel Palacio (River Plate), Giovani Lo Celso (Real Betis); Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Matias Suarez (River Plate), Paulo Dybala (Juventus), Lautaro Martinez (Inter).

Pep Guardiola believes Vincent Kompany's destiny is to return Manchester City later in his career as the centre-back prepares to leave for a player-manager role at Anderlecht.

Kompany has spent 11 years at City and enjoyed great success, with the Champions League being the only major trophy he failed to win at the Premier League club.

His final success came on Saturday when City crushed Watford 6-0 to lift the FA Cup, completing an unprecedented domestic treble, adding to Premier League and EFL Cup triumphs.

The 33-year-old Belgian announced a day later that he was to leave and return to Anderlecht, his first club as a professional, and will take up a player-manager position.

City will struggle to replace Kompany's experience and influence, but Guardiola is confident the defender will return one day.

"I think we're going to miss him [Kompany] a lot," Guardiola said during City's trophy parade on Monday.

"I'm going to miss him, but he is going to see us in the future because he is coming back sooner or later.

"It's the best way to say goodbye after an incredible season together. He was a real captain, he helped us a lot.

"Now it's time to have good food, good wine and enjoy this incredible season together. In a few weeks we are going to think about [the future]. Now we are going to enjoy what we have done."

Bernardo Silva vowed to "go for" the Champions League after being named Manchester City's Player of the Season at the club's trophy parade on Monday.

Silva enjoyed a fine campaign, nailing down a spot in the starting spot despite Riyad Mahrez's arrival and excelling in a number of different roles.

The Portuguese midfielder's haul of seven goals in the Premier League helped City retain the title, while they also claimed the EFL Cup and FA Cup, the latter of which they won in a 6-0 hammering of Watford on Saturday.

City announced Silva had topped a fan vote for the individual honour during Monday's celebrations, with the winner declaring his intention to help secure European success next term.

"Thank you very much everyone," he said. "The way you pushed us this season. You made it real for us. Without them [the fans], it wouldn't be possible. Next season, we'll come back, trying to give you more titles.

"A lot of hard work has been put in. We're very tired! It's been a long season, a fantastic season for us, but with four trophies [the Premier League, EFL Cup, FA Cup and Community Shield] for all squad and staff, it's been amazing.

"Hopefully, we want to do better, try and go for European trophies as well - it's what we're missing.

"The supporters need to demand more from us. European trophies - we need that. Let’s go for it."

Vincent Kompany bid farewell to Manchester City's supporters by declaring his undying love for the club he believes to be the best in the world - then signed off with a mic drop at their trophy parade.

Kompany and City broke the news on Sunday that the Belgian is to depart the club after 11 years, returning to Anderlecht to take up a player-manager role.

The centre-back has enjoyed great success at City, winning four Premier League titles and the EFL Cup on four occasions. He is also a two-time FA Cup winner after Saturday's 6-0 hammering of Watford at Wembley.

That victory clinched an unprecedented domestic treble, having already won the Premier League and EFL Cup this season, allowing Kompany to depart on a high.

City took to the streets of Manchester on Monday for an open-top bus parade with those three trophies and the Community Shield, allowing Kompany the opportunity to say goodbye to the fans.

He said: "I've wanted to do this all my life. You are the best club in the world, I don't care whether you win the Champions League or not.

"You are the best club in the world and remember that forever. These guys deserve all your love every day of the week, every single day of the year they'll work hard.”

"This is the way I want to leave, I love you – I'm out," Kompany concluded before dropping the microphone.

Prior to the speech, footage of musician Noel Gallagher - a City fan - thanking Kompany for his service was shown on the big screen, before the musician played 'Wonderwall' in tribute to the Belgian, with both supporters and the rest of the squad singing along.

Ilkay Gundogan is ready to reopen contracts talks with Manchester City after their historic domestic treble.

Watford were thrashed 6-0 at Wembley on Saturday as City became the first English men's team to complete a clean sweep, adding the FA Cup to their Premier League and EFL Cup titles.

Gundogan is heading into the final year of his contract at the club, who also won the Community Shield at the start of the season.

The Germany international has enjoyed extra responsibility under Pep Guardiola this season, making 31 Premier League appearances, partly down to injury issues for Fernandinho and Kevin De Bruyne.

City have already lost Vincent Kompany after the club captain left to take a player-manager role at Anderlecht but Gundogan suggested he will stay at the Etihad Stadium.

"Now is enough time to reflect on the situation and to take up the talks again more intensely with the club," he told Bild of his contract situation.

While City made history domestically, Guardiola has acknowledged his time at the club will be judged by European success.

And his side fell short again in their bid for a Champions League crown as they were knocked out by Premier League rivals Tottenham in stunning fashion.

"The exit in Europe was extremely bitter," Gundogan said of the quarter-final defeat. "But it would be wrong to mourn the Champions League after our domestic success.

"If I can wish for something at club level for my future, then it is definitely to win the Champions League.”

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