Just as Sheikh Mansour planned! Winners and losers as Man City finally realise their Champions League destiny as Inter strikers no-show in Istanbul

Manchester City Inter Champions League final 2022-23
It wasn't a cakewalk, nor was it particularly pretty, but the Abu Dhabi-backed club have finally conquered Europe thanks to a 1-0 victory in Istanbul

So, the project is now complete. Abu Dhabi's plan to conquer the world of football has finally been accomplished. And Sheikh Mansour even turned up to see 15 years of colossal - and questionable - financial investment yield a first Champions League triumph for Manchester City.

Did they deserve it? That's obviously a loaded question from an ethical perspective. But, from a sporting standpoint, no, on the night, Inter were the better side. City may have had all the ball, but they played nowhere near their best in a fortuitous 1-0 win at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium.

They looked strangely nervous, perhaps overwhelmed by the occasion. They were heavy favourites to win this game; many thought it would be a walkover. But City played with an unusual lack of confidence and precision. Pep Guardiola could be heard screaming, somewhat ironically, at his players to 'Relax!' during the first half.

But City got the job done, thanks to Rodri's well-taken 68th-minute strike, and really that's all that matters from Mansour's perspective. It may have taken longer than it should have given the amount of oil money pumped into the club, but the bottom line is that City have made history. They are treble winners and, in spite of their poor performance against Inter, nobody would dispute the claim that they are the best team on the planet right now based on the 2022-23 season as a whole.

Below, GOAL runs through the winners and losers from the belated coronation of a new world order in Istanbul...

  1. WINNER: Pep Guardiola
    Getty Images

    WINNER: Pep Guardiola

    The Catalan made his name as a coach by winning the Champions League twice with Barcelona with arguably two of the greatest performances in the competition's history. He has endured 10 frustrating seasons since then, being knocked out on away goals on three occasions, losing the 2021 final and being denied in agonising circumstances by Real Madrid last season.

    But he has finally won the competition for a third time, proving that he is one of the best, if not the best coach in the world. Only Zinedine Zidane and Carlo Ancelotti have won the competition as many times as him. And if he stays at City until the end of his current contract in 2025, he could well match or even beat Ancelotti's record of four triumphs.

    This was perhaps the worst performance from a side of his in the Champions League final, but after all the heartache Guardiola has experienced since last winning it in 2011, getting his hands on the famous trophy once again was all that mattered.

  2. LOSER: Inter's strikers
    Getty Images

    LOSER: Inter's strikers

    This game was there for the taking or Inter, but victory was utterly dependent upon them taking their chances. They didn't. Inter had twice as many shots as City (14-7). The xG was 1.81 to 0.94 in their favour - and yet Simone Inzaghi's side failed to even force extra-time.

    They could, of course, have done with the kind of good fortune that City benefitted from midway through the second half, when a poor cross was deflected into Rodri's path by Francesco Acerbi's backside. However, when the Nerazzurri needed a bit of luck, Federico Dimarco's late, looping header bounced off the crossbar - and then his follow-up hit his own team-mate, Romelu Lukaku.

    Ultimately, though, Inter only have themselves to blame. Edin Dzeko was dire, predictably so, and Inzaghi will have to explain why on earth he elected to start a 37-year-old with no pace against City's high line, and left the in-form Lukaku on the bench. The Belgium striker will obviously generate headlines for the close-range header that he really should have buried in the closing stages, but there is simply no denying the fact that Inter became far more threatening as soon as he set foot on the field.

    Lukaku could even have had tap-in had Lautaro Martinez not selfishly - and disgracefully - decided to shoot himself after pouncing on a loose pass-back, rather than trying to square the ball to his onrushing strike partner. It was a horrific error, one which provoked a furious response from Marcelo Brozovic, who was, at the time, also arriving at speed, unmarked, on the edge of the area.

    Unfortunately for Inter, while City legend Sergio Aguero bigged up their forwards' firepower before the game, not one of them turned up with their shooting boots on.

  3. WINNER: Ederson
    Getty Images

    WINNER: Ederson

    The Brazilian goalkeeper is valued more for his ability on the ball than his capacity to keep it out, and this season he has often been beaten with the first shot he has faced, if indeed he has had to face any. But here the symbol of modern goalkeeping showed he also knows how to do the basics.

    He threw out his arms to intimidate Martinez and prevent the Argentine from opening the scoring, before he produced two fine reflex saves late in the game. When he walked up to get his medal, he felt a huge amount of appreciation from his team-mates, who clearly felt grateful to him for protecting their slender lead.

  4. WINNER: City's double pivot
    Getty Images

    WINNER: City's double pivot

    Rodri played no part in City's last Champions League final, but he made sure he made his mark on this one. He has a habit of prising open cagey games, firing in the first goal against Bayern Munich in the quarter-final first leg. This was a less spectacular finish, but it underlined his awareness of where the ball is going to drop, and Andre Onana stood no chance. The source of the only goal of the game was somewhat surprising as Rodri had endured a very tough first half, and was far from his usual best.

    So it's a good thing that he had the ever-present and courageous John Stones to give him some support. Stones, who is one of City fans' best-loved players, carried the ball with assurance and also held his own physically, never shying away from a scrap. He is one of the team's longest-serving players and has had his fair share of ups and downs in his long career on the blue side of Manchester. So, winning the treble as one of Guardiola's most important players once more must give him a huge level of satisfaction.

  5. LOSER: Serie A

    LOSER: Serie A

    It's been a sensational season for Serie A. Having three teams in the last eight of the Champions League, and a representative in all three major European finals, has done wonders for the perception of Italian football. However, as Inter goalkeeper Andre Onana said earlier this week, finals are not there to be played, they are there to be won, and all three were lost.

    Roma were unlucky in the sense that penalties are always a lottery, but they should have had few complaints about their shootout defeat against Sevilla. Of course, that was never going to be the case with Jose Mourinho around and he rather shamefully - and inevitably - blamed the officials for the Giallorossi's loss.

    However, both Vincenzo Italiano and Inzaghi were entitled to feel hard done by. Fiorentina played a terrific game against West Ham, but were ultimately undone by a 90th-minute goal from Jarrod Bowen - and a brand of football that one commentator on Sky said was "like something out of the 1970s".

    As for Inter, they gave it everything in Istanbul. They more than matched the best team in the world, despite the gross disparity in resources, and deserve all the praise likely to come their way in the coming days.

    But, unfortunately, their season ends, just as it does for the rest of Serie A's finest, without a European trophy, and as much pain as pride.

  6. WINNER: Sheikh Mansour
    Getty Images

    WINNER: Sheikh Mansour

    It is 15 years since the Abu Dhabi businessman bought City through the Abu Dhabi United group for £210 million. While others might have seen a club in crisis who were forever in the shadow of their neighbours Manchester United, the then-Champions League holders, Sheikh Mansour saw an opportunity to build a football empire.

    He did not just invest £1.5 billion into assembling one of the best squads in the world. He built a state of the art training ground right next to the Etihad Stadium and has steadily expanded the club's ground, which will soon hold 60,000 spectators. And he has also continued to look after the local community, a key reason why fans love him so much.

    As soon as the final whistle sounded in Istanbul to confirm City's triumph, the supporters started chanting his name. So it was a good thing he was there to witness it. It was only the second time he has been to see the side he owns and the first time in 13 years, but it was well worth the journey. Now his side are European champions and have completed the treble, he might want to visit more often.