ROB DRAPER: No points for style, but Rodri delivers the elusive prize for Manchester City

You’ll never take this moment away from these Manchester City players. They’re aren’t just the best team in Europe, finally ascending that mountain in the scared city of Istanbul. They are now among the greatest ever to play the game in England and the equal of their neighbours Manchester United with their own treble secured.

They had to scarp to get there. In the end it was one of their more destructive players Rodri was proved game changer, a thundering shot of a goal which finally broke the deadlock on 68 minutes after a dog of a game that saw swaggering City aesthetically neutralised. Still, for once this was about that elusive trophy rather than points for style.

Naturally, there are qualifications to make and many will add them. There will be another day of reckoning when the scales of justice are weighed, City’s accounts are quantified and a verdict is made on the claims of financial doping, which City deny. ‘What about the 115 Premier League charges?’ will be the cry from almost every other fan group around Europe. A guilty verdict might rob this club of much of the lustre accumulated in recent years and lose them pervious titles. But not this one and they will never take the treble.

That day of judgement will come but this night was about the fans who watched this team lose to Lincoln, Wycombe and York in the third tier. Those at Bootham Crescent in the run up to Christmas in 1998, when City sunk to twelfth in the equivalent of League One and then scarped up via the Play Offs will be incredulous. Even with the accumulated wealth of Abu Dhabi oil reserves, this was still scarcely believable to most in 2008, though it will now become common place.

Many European clubs are geo-political footballs and that era began with City’s takeover which has spawned this team. Some say it was inevitable. Throw enough money at the problem and eventually you’ll hit upon a solution. But it isn’t quite that simple: ask Manchester United and Paris St Germain.

We knew it was a big day when it was confirmed Sheikh Mansour was in attendance. The vice president and deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates had deigned to watch his team he owns for the second time in 15 years. 

When former player Franny Lee owned City, he did so on the back of his bog roll business, rather than being the member of a royal family with net worth of $300bn. 

Franny was City royalty and might have made his money clearing up faeces, but, then again, he also didn’t have to defend Abu Dhabi’s human rights record.

And we knew how much City needed this win when Guardiola promised there would be no tactical brainstorms here. Given the damage they usually inflict on his side, that would have come as a relief to most City fans. 

And yet there was a switch, with Kyle Walker dropped and John Stones nominally at right back. Except that actually played alongside Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne in midfield, He wasn’t the extra holding midfielder, as been usual, but a full on attacking midfielder, presumably to put pressure on Inter’s five-man midfield.

But this wasn’t the City we have grown accustomed to in the last third of the season, crushing all comers and baffling them with by pushing an extra man into midfield. This was a disjointed team, seemingly thrown off their stride by Inter. 

Even when they won a corner in the 14th minutes, Hakan Calhanoglu strolled over to take it, like it was a casual Sunday afternoon promenade. Andre Onana seemed distracted and lost in thought when he had a goal kicks to take. Throw-ins likewise, Inter took their time, almost like they didn’t want a free-flowing game.

There was a moment of pace injection when Kevin De Bruyne playedin Erling Haaland. But the ball ran just beyond the striker, whose shot was inhibited. 

And it was shortly after this that De Buryne signalled to the bench. It seemed that would be his one moment of significance here and sure enough, shortly after he departed, a cruel mirror of the 2021 final which also ended early for him.

Ruben Dias was uncharacteristically dwelling on he ball, getting caught by Lautaro Martiez.  Edin Dzeko was winning his headers against Manuel Akanji from the frequent long balls sent his way. 

Crossfield balls to wing backs Denzel Dumfreis and Federico Dimarco were an Inter favourite and causing City problems. Not so much that they sweated. Butenough to indicate the game wasn’t running to plan. You pitied the TV producers worldwide pulling together the half time highlights. They were pitiful.

Yet Inter were happy. 

From the side-lines coach Simone Inzaghi was virtually the 12th man on the pitch, exhorting his players to stick to the game plan, crouching and then leaping up like a Jack-in-th-box when he saw a player not doing his job. This is a man who has won 7 or the 8 cup finals he has coached: he was always going to come to Istanbul with a viable plan. They had 39 per cent possession yet by a different metric, they were controlling the game, in that it was precisely the match they wanted. 

When Romelu Lukaku was introduced on 55 minutes, replacing Dzeko, 37 years old and all out of running, it felt like the big guns were being deployed for the final bombardment. Akanji would switch off, allowing in Lautaro Martinez – Ederson would save the day – and Erling Haaland, when he did get a touch, was misplacing passes.

It was not to be. When the chance came in the 88 minute for Lukaku – and it was a huge one – he nodded the ball tamely at Ederson. It was a painful moment for the Belgian and the Inter fans, That was their moment. City had survived it and the game, you felt was, surely theirs. It was a match that will never rank in the top 100 of City performances under Pep Guardiola. It was gnarly display, unpleasing on the eye. And yet it completed a journey. And for many, it will be the most important of all. You wouldn’t begrudge those fans that joy, nor these players who have worked to achieve this. The 115 questions it throws up for football as a sport are a thornier issue, to be resolved at a later date. Last night was for celebration of a truly remarkable team.