Ahead of Saturday’s Champions League final between City and Inter, Club journalist Neil Leigh spoke to John Murray, highly respected BBC chief football correspondent, to get his thoughts ahead of the most eagerly awaited game of the season and on City’s extraordinary season…

John, many thanks for your time – ahead of Saturday’s Champions League final it’s already been a remarkable season for City. What has it been like to commentate on them?

I am quite fortunate in the role that I play in the time that I’ve done it in that I do tend to see the top teams and because you see them so often, you develop a bit of a connection with them.

You get to know the people involved – not just the footballing people but the people behind the scenes too.

And they tend to be good people and that’s what I mean by growing a connection and as I see them regularly you see the patterns develop.

And for Manchester City, this has been a story unlike any other we have seen, and I go back a fair way to when City were playing at Maine Raid.

And though the supporters still sing about those days, it does feel as though that has been consigned to a chapter of history now.

I know this season when Arsenal slipped, and it looked a formality that City would win the title, I know there were still some City fans saying: ‘Well this is still Manchester City, anything is possible…’

I don’t think it is any more. That’s gone while this current Manchester City exists - that’s not part of their psyche anymore.

And another counter to that was: ‘Well, look what’s happened to us in the Champions League.’


Well, that might be consigned to history too with what they do this weekend.

So I’ve seen this with the top clubs, with Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea with the success they have had in the past 20 years and there are parallels to be drawn there.

But with City I think the story, and all aspects of the story, Abu Dhabi, Pep Guardiola, the players, the style of football, it has all made it such a compelling football narrative to follow.

And this feels like it’s got a touch of end game about it.

All the focus of course is on a potential Treble. But to have already secured a second domestic Double – and a fifth title in six years - what does that say about City?

There is that feeling that it has all been building to this and possibly one of the greatest-ever seasons we have seen for any club in this country.

When you see City win the Premier League, as they did the other week, it’s three in a row now and that has not been done since the days of Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.

But, at the same time, you can’t help but look forward and think: ‘Well no-one has won it four years in a row, so that would be truly unique.’

And also what tends to be overlooked is that if City win the Champions League they then get into the UEFA Super Cup, and they also get into the Club World Cup too.

So then you also have the potential to win those trophies next season as well.

To the club and the coaches, it would mean the chance of more titles and more successes.

Pep was always careful to add in the Community Shield when we talked winning about the domestic treble in 2019. Pep said: ‘No, it’s a quadruple of domestic trophies, including the Community Shield.’


It always used to strike me with Sir Alex Ferguson that it didn’t matter what the trophy was which he had won - even if it was a League Cup that would have been expected of his side - it was how joyous he was at the moment of success.

I think that shows a heck of lot of mentality and you saw that with Pep at the weekend and the way he was so happy to have won the FA Cup.

Elite managers like Pep never underestimate the moment of victory as that is what they are about.

And there remains that feeling that there are no guarantees in football, and it might be that this one is the last one for a long time and that’s why they celebrate the way they do.

From your privileged position in the commentary booth is there a defining quality that you believe helps make City so special?

I think the strength of the squad in terms of its overall quality.

Other teams have had bigger squads down the years and Chelsea have certainly had a much bigger squad this season.

But I think it’s that overall quality and the fact that rather like the Chelsea match in the league last month, where Pep made so many changes after the league was won, and then you saw the way that team started that match.

That is the strength of City and that is what Pep has done.

He can make all those changes and keep the style and fluidity the same and that’s the ultimate compliment as to what City are about.

The other thing as well is the case this season that there has been an absolutely remarkable level of fitness, with the odd exception, which speaks volumes about the Club’s medical department.

Obviously, you can’t do anything about the fact that Phil Foden needed an appendix operation in the spring.

But, generally, to keep those players fit means Pep still had most of his options. And when things haven’t gone right – and nothing always goes right in a season of course - they have dealt with it every way.

How much will have having played and beaten Manchester United in an FA Cup final help in terms of City’s mindset?

I think what helps is that narrative that this is the best version of Manchester City we have ever seen.

I think that all helps and for me they have that look of a team that you feel they have done a lot of the job before they even get onto the field, psychologically.

If you have a look at the figures alone, I think Ilkay Gundogan is now the sixth player in double figures for the season.

Then there is Erling Haaland with his 52 goals. Wherever you look, City’s key players are in form.

And it is a bit like against Manchester United at the weekend in the FA Cup final.

If you looked at it man for man, I think most would have called it for City for those reasons.

From a professional point of view if City were to win and seal the Treble, what would it mean to you to commentate on such a special moment in English football history?

I would always say that I have been motivated by the European Cup.

As a youngster first watching the game - and in particular international and European football - it really captured my imagination, helped by that explosion of English success when I was growing up.

It had a romance to it, and I loved the idea of it.

So that’s always meant a great deal to me.

And therefore always when I cover European finals with English clubs they are such special events because of what it meant in terms of my own football upbringing.

To be there when our teams win European finals is really, really special and given what it is at stake it would be so again on Saturday.

And from City’s perspective where would a victory on Saturday place them in the pantheon of truly great teams?

In terms of English clubs who have been European champions, going back to the 1970s it wasn’t necessarily the case in those days that you had to pay your dues before you won it.

Liverpool had been in European finals but then when it came to the big competition, their winning record was exceptional.

That was then followed by Forest and Aston Villa and Liverpool again all winning it in quick succession.

Whereas in the modern era of the Champions League it does tend to be the case that you have to pay your dues.

You have to go through an agonising process and do the hard yards before getting over the line.

But I feel that Pep Guardiola has said you need this experience like with Real Madrid. Just look at how many finals and semi-finals they have played down the years.

For decades and decades City weren’t in the competition of course. But now all that experience they have gathered will only have helped. The feeling of last season given the way they went out in the semi-final to Real also has to be a real motivator.

Then there is that Champions League final against Chelsea in Porto too back in 2021.

Many of the City players were involved in that game and will have the feeling that: ‘We let it slip two years ago, now we have another chance and we are not going to let it go.’

They have been through it, and it feels like now it’s the time to grab it.

In terms of the magnitude, it would put them up right up there.

Like winning the domestic Double last Saturday… that is still a relatively rare thing and City have done it twice in the space of four years so that gives them a place in domestic history.

But winning the Champions League - and with it the Treble - would put them right up there on the global stage.


You can follow all of the action on our official app with our Matchday Centre beginning at 16:00 (UK).

Our Matchday Live programme, live from Istanbul, will begin around 18:20 (UK).

Host Natalie Pike will be joined by Matchday Live veterans Nedum Onuoha, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Steph Houghton to provide City-centric insight in the build-up to the game.


The guests will also answer viewer questions throughout the broadcast, with audience participation actively encouraged on Matchday Live.

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During the game you can listen to live audio commentary while our text commentary continues.

A detailed match report will be posted upon the game’s completion before we provide you with post-match reaction from Guardiola and the players.

Short highlights and a full-match replay (for CITY+ and Recast subscribers) from the match will be available from 23:00 (UK) Saturday with extended highlights available from 23:00 (UK) Sunday 11 June.