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Man City cruise past Fluminense in Club World Cup final to lift fifth trophy in 2023

Manchester City celebrates Manchester City celebrates - The Canadian Press

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Pep Guardiola is happy to call Manchester City the best in the world this year, but an all-time great team? That debate must wait for years if not decades.

“Right now, I don’t know,” Guardiola said after City cruised to its first Club World Cup title by easily beating Fluminense 4-0 on Friday, lifting a fifth domestic and international trophy in 2023.

Guardiola is the first coach to win the FIFA club title with three different teams and compared City's status to the great Barcelona side he led to be champion of Spain, Europe and the world in 2011.

“If people talk about the team 25 or 30 years later it means you’re a really good team,” he said. “Today is nice. We have been the best team in the world.”

Judgment on this Man City era also must wait for the outcome of an English Premier League investigation into alleged financial wrongdoing at the club for almost a decade through 2018.

A hearing is expected late next year to examine 115 charges leveled against the club for conduct during the first nine full seasons after being bought by the royal family of Abu Dhabi. Verdicts are not expected until 2025, when City will play in the first revamped Club World Cup with 32 teams.

Guardiola's team has been unquestionably the best in Europe this year and was simply too good for overmatched Fluminense, which could ill afford unlucky bounces of the ball that left the first-time champion of South America in a two-goal hole within 27 minutes.

“We prepared the whole year for (Copa) Libertadores but not the Club World Cup,” Fluminense coach Fernando Diniz said of his team being drained by winning its continental title seven weeks ago.

City led after just 40 seconds to make it a match mostly free of tension. Julián Álvarez followed up fastest to meet a rebound off a post from Nathan Aké’s shot.

An own goal by Fluminense captain Nino decided the game long before Phil Foden's goal in the 72nd, guiding an Álvarez pass into an open net. Álvarez struck again in the 88th.

Victory came at a cost for City, which gave Europe a 16th title in 17 editions of FIFA's competition for continental champions.

Key midfielder Rodri limped away from the stadium with his right knee heavily bandaged after a heavy tackle by Fluminense substitute Alexsander.

Guardiola said the incident forcing Rodri to be substituted was “a scare” though he claimed he was unsure of the severity of the injury. City losses this season typically come when the Spaniard has missed games.

Tempers flared after the game with City captain Kyle Walker confronting Fluminense players including veteran defender Felipe Melo.

Rodri later took part in celebrations with the trophy and received an award as the best player at the tournament.

With Rodri in imperious form, City cruised to a second easy win in four balmy days in Saudi Arabia even without injured superstars Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne. They also missed City's semifinals win over Urawa Red Diamonds on Tuesday.

Their expected absences could help explain about 4,000 empty seats among a crowd of 52,601 at King Abdullah Sports City, the Jeddah stadium which is planned to be used at the 2034 World Cup.

Guardiola the first coach to win the Club World Cup with three different teams. He led Barcelona to titles in 2009 and 2011, then with a team that won the Champions League under outgoing coach Jupp Heynckes.

Guardiola celebrated calmly his record fourth Club World Cup title as a coach — adding to Barcelona's in 2009 and '11 and with Bayern Munich in 2013 — by walking across to console Diniz with a handshake and arm on his shoulder.

Fluminense started with six players born in the 1980s, and bristled with perceived disrespect when told on Thursday of British media drawing attention to the age of its veteran team. City’s oldest player in the starting lineup, 33-year-old Walker, was born in May 1990.

The final paired clubs that played in their national third-tier divisions as recently as 1999.

City has since become the club with the highest declared annual revenue in world soccer, banking $890 million in its treble-winning 2022-23 season with a salary bill of $530 million. City later added the UEFA Super Cup in August.

Fluminense has said it expects to earn $74 million this year, and the gulf in wealth and purchasing power was clear on the field and likely will grow before both teams play at the relaunched Club World Cup in June-July 2025.

"I don’t think we just lack money. It’s too simplistic," Diniz said in translated comments, before adding "but money is also important.”

That 32-team tournament in the United States in 2025 will have 12 European teams and six from South America, each potentially earning tens of millions in FIFA prize money.

In the third-place game earlier in Jeddah, African champion Al Ahly of Egypt won 4-2 against Urawa, the Asian champion from Japan. Those teams also will be at the expanded 2025 edition.


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