But CEO Ferran Soriano instructed his staff to put the disappointment behind them the very next day and focus on winning the tournament in 2022/23. City had been picturing themselves in the final in Paris when they headed into injury time ahead at the Bernabeu in the 2022 semi-final, but conceded two quick-fire goals and lost in extra time to crash out of the competition.
A year on, they drew in Madrid at the same stage and blew Real away in the home leg to book their place in Istanbul, where they beat Inter Milan to finally lift the European Cup.
And Soriano says the Real defeat (plus heartbreaking losses to Chelsea, Lyon and Tottenham among others) only made City more determined to win the Champions League.
Describing the Real Madrid game as a catalyst, Soriano said: We have four trophies, and a lot of people are very happy about it and congratulating us and saying: what a season. What I say is, its not a season its a decade, a decade of hard work.
Winning the Champions League is symbolic and very important and has helped the visibility of the club. But the cold reality is that we could have lost that final. One year ago, we lost a semi-final in a game in Madrid that we were winning 0-1 in the 90th minute. We conceded two goals in one minute and in the previous year we lost the final.
Ultimately, its not a year, its a decade. A decade of hard work and consistency. The way Manchester City plays football in the last decade is the same with little variations, but the pillars are the same.
Focussing on that Real Madrid game, Soriano says that the response to that exit focussed minds that resulted in the 2023 success, and that finally winning the Champions League will make it easier for them to win it again.
After losing in Madrid it was one of the worst days of our lives, we had 24 hours of drama, he revealed. I tell people they can be miserable for 24 hours and in hour 25 we need to wake up, we need to move on and we need to think about the next game. Thats what made us champions.