City players to share £15m bonus if they make history with a domestic clean sweep
Manchester City's players stand to share a bonus pool of more than £15m (€17.6m) if they win an unprecedented English domestic treble as Pep Guardiola admitted beating a Liverpool side he ranks as one of the best two teams he has faced to the title would be his most satisfying managerial achievement.
Victory over Leicester City at the Etihad Stadium tonight would move City back to the top of the table, a point above Liverpool, and leave them needing to match their rivals' result on the final day to guarantee becoming the first club to retain the title for a decade.
With the Carabao Cup already under lock and key, City will become the first club in English football to win all three leading domestic competitions should they clinch the title on Sunday and then beat Watford in the FA Cup final at Wembley six days later.
And the prospect of making history would bring Guardiola's squad a huge windfall.
City's players have clauses written into their heavily incentivised contracts guaranteeing bonuses for each competition they win.
Elimination from the Champions League last month meant they missed out on up to £1m each for European Cup success, but they are still in line for bumper pay days if they complete a domestic treble.
Although the maximum bonus pool across the squad for winning the title, FA Cup and League Cup is in excess of £20m, City will not have to foot a bill quite that large because players receive the full bonus only if they play in 60pc of the team's total minutes per competition, and not every player has done that.
In cases where players have not hit the 60pc threshold, bonuses are, in the main, reduced by 50pc, although there are exceptions and exemptions.
For example, Kevin De Bruyne's contract entitles him to a £750,000 bonus for winning the Premier League, an additional £300,000 for lifting the FA Cup and a further £75,000 for the League Cup.
However, after a season blighted by injury, De Bruyne has not played as many minutes as he would ordinarily expect to so his bonuses will be less. Nonetheless, City are still facing the prospect of a bill of more than £15m, albeit one they will gladly foot if the prize is a domestic treble.
Guardiola watched on television as Liverpool beat Newcastle 3-2 in a nerve-jangling game at St James' Park on Saturday and believes, alongside the Barcelona team who defeated his Bayern Munich en route to winning a Champions League, La Liga and Copa del Rey treble under Luis Enrique in 2015, that Jurgen Klopp's side are the best he has encountered as a manager.
And the Catalan believes the way his side have fought back from being seven points behind Liverpool in early January, overcome a glut of injuries to key players and refused to rest on their laurels after amassing an unprecedented century of points last season, singles this out as his most satisfying campaign.
"In my career as a manager, I played against incredible sides," the City manager said. "There are two that were, 'Wow'. One is Barcelona with Luis Enrique, with Neymar, [Lionel] Messi and [Luis] Suarez up front. The other is this Liverpool. I think they're the best two sides I've faced as a manager.
"That's why, arriving at this stage, two games left with 92 points, after 100 points [last season], is the most satisfaction I've had as a manager.
"When you are seven points behind, you could have said, 'It's done' and just think, 'We did it last season'. We did the opposite of that. We were like [chipping away at] a stone. The difference [this season] is Liverpool - we did the same job [as last season]. It's incredible, what we have done, but it will make more sense if we are able to lift the Premier League.
"Now we have to try to win the game [against Leicester] and go to Brighton [on Sunday] with it [the title] in our hands - a chance to be champions there."
Guardiola believes the competition between Liverpool and City has helped to elevate their levels - and left the rest struggling to catch up. "It's the toughest league I've ever played as a manager, for the quality from the rivals - no doubt," he said.
"That's why being there is incredible but, of course, only one will take the prize and the other one will be at home sad.
"When I saw the way Liverpool played in the Camp Nou [against Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final], I said, 'Wow, we are at that level'. They showed me incredible things, Liverpool in the Camp Nou.
"They lost one game in the Premier League but we have more than 20 points than third, fourth, fifth and sixth in the league. I didn't expect to maintain that level.
"When you get 100 points everyone thinks we won't do what we have to do, we will do less because we won, but it was completely the opposite of that."
© Daily Telegraph, London
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