José Mourinho couldn't resist expressing a smidgen of smugness at Manchester City's Champions League exit and Roberto Mancini's woes.
"If it was Real Madrid, the press wouldn't let me return to Madrid," he assured the charmed members of the British press pack. Mourinho had a point.
The ramifications of success at Madrid, let alone failure, have resulted in the termination of a coach. In 2003 Vicente del Bosque was told a day after winning the Primera Liga with the club he would be sacked. He had already guided the club to two Champions League wins and has since steered Spain to their first World Cup and a third European Championship. Perhaps it was a reference point for Roman Abramovich.
Madrid have occasionally resembled the trigger-happy Tsar of Stamford Bridge since Del Bosque was fired but the size of the club is matched by the size of its expectations. This is something they do not have in common with City.
Mancini ended the Citizens' 35-year trophy drought and then the 44 years without a league title. He has however spent £291.75m since his arrival at Eastlands in December 2009 and has twice failed to take the club beyond the Champions League group stage.
Mancini has guided City to just three Champions League wins from 11 games
That ticker at Old Trafford which counted the years City had gone without a trophy used to drive Blues "nuts", said the club's comical former chief executive Garry Cook. It may have come down last year, but City can't ignore its impact even when Sergio Agüero, David Silva, Yaya Touré and Vincent Kompany grace the laser blue shirt.
That history is why Mancini remains in a job, rather than his team sitting top of the Premier League table. Strides are being made to augment the club's profile, from the astonishing football academy planned to securing the squad's most influential players on long-term contracts, but City's aspirations to break into Europe's elite will take time.
Although bruising for their fans' ego, this works to their advantage. Mancini's Champions League record may be a poor one as far back as his Internazionale days, but he was behind the mayhem that ensued at Eastlands on 13 May 2012. Promoting the continuity which Chelsea abhor will gain the club credibility however hollow their success may be.
The club are not accustomed to lifting silverware annually, yet via the Abu Dhabi United Group's riches and under Mancini it has happened. Money was irrelevant when City were eight points behind United on Easter Sunday with just six league games remaining, but they usurped them in their antepenultimate fixture.
At Maine Road, so sinful was the colour red the ketchup used to be turned blue. Now City are no longer looking over the fence longingly at the parties United enjoy as they host their own without caring whether the sauce is red. They could be back on it again come May.
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