What Manchester City have been working towards for 15 years almost arrived on 17 May, with a performance in the UEFA Champions League semi-finals so devastating that no future opponents should ever be foolish enough to look at the match record. Too scary.
A few days later something happened that we had seen so many times before: City won the Premier League title.
While the club has been striving in vain for success in the Champions League for years, first place in the league has become almost a habit.
As Arsenal built a lead of as much as 11 points to 8 points in less than two months of play, the specter of Man City dominance always lurked. The Gunners’ three straight draws seemed as much a surrender to City’s inevitability as anything Liverpool, West Ham and Southampton had achieved before.
Since the start of the 2017/18 season, City have dominated the most competitive league in the world. They have won five of the last six championships. Liverpool needed to win 26 of their first 27 games of the 2019/20 season – that’s 79 points from a possible 81 – to build a comfortable lead City couldn’t catch them.
Manchester City have more money than almost any other club, but they are not the only club that has spent big money fighting for the Premier League title.
Chelsea spent nearly $600 million on net spend for the 2022-23 season – and did far worse, falling from third to 11th place. So it was important to be smart, and City have been almost from the start.
Have they become the current dominant dynasty in men’s sport? When you look back at 2015 and look at the most successful players from the top leagues around the world, it’s hard to go against them.
MORE: Manchester United vs Manchester City title after title
Manchester City (Premier League, England)
- Title (5): 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022, 2023
- Second (2): 2015, 2020
- Notable Achievement: League record score (100 in 2017/18)
Manchester City’s rise to the top of the footballing world began in 2008 when the club was bought by the Abu Dhabi group.
City were only relegated in 2001 and had spent five out of six seasons outside the Premier League from 1996/97. After eventual promotion to the Premier League, they developed into a fairly reliable mid-table team in England’s top flight, finishing 12th on average over the six seasons between 2001 and 2008.
Then the money started flowing.
The first major purchase in the global player transfer market was Brazilian star Robinho, but far more important was the signing of defender Vincent Kompany from Germany’s Hamburger SV earlier this year. He became a club legend over the next decade and laid the foundation for the nascent dynasty. In the following years
City bought stars like Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne – and then in 2016 the club hired Pep Guardiola as manager. The greatest successes also began with two Premier League titles in the previous five years.
In five of Guardiola’s seven seasons in charge, Manchester City have won the Premier League, seven since the league was formed in 1992, behind rivals Manchester United in second place. In the 2017/18 season, they became the first league team ever to score 100 points with a record of 32 wins, four draws and just two losses.
This season’s championship represents only the third three-peat in the Premier League. No one has ever won four in a row, which could set yet another new standard of performance for City in the 2023/24 season.
MORE: Pep Guardiola has won trophies as a manager
FC Barcelona (La Liga, Spain)
- Title (5): 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2023
- Second (4): 2017, 2020, 2022
- Notable Achievement: Won the 2015 UEFA Champions League
Such is Barca’s power that they managed to win La Liga again in the 2022/23 season, just two years after what we call the front office ‘fighting’ that saw the club lose the Legend Lionel Messi could no longer offer a contract without him breaching the spending limits imposed by the league. He left for Paris in the summer of 2021.
Shortly thereafter, Barca sent star striker Antoine Griezmann on loan to league rivals Atlético Madrid. And now, a season later, they’ve already won several weeks before the end of the game. It’s a season where they’ve conceded a goal roughly every three games. However, the legendary player Xavi develops into a kind of magician as a manager.
Obviously, without Messi, this isn’t the same Barcelona side that won four out of five titles from 2015-2019. And next season they won’t even be able to play at their home stadium; Renovation work on Camp Nou, built in 1957, will begin as soon as this season ends. Barca will play next season at the Olympic Stadium on Montjuic, where the track and field competitions were held at the 1992 Summer Games.
Golden State Warriors (National Basketball Association, USA)
- Title (4): 2015, 2017, 2018, 2022
- Second (2): 2016, 2109
- Notable Achievement: He set the league record with 73 wins in 2015/16
As they rise to become a modern dynasty, the Warriors not only fought for — and won — an unusual number of championships in a short amount of time. They have completely revolutionized the way the game is played.
During the 2010-11 season, the average NBA team shot 18 three-pointers per game. A decade later, that number stood at 35 per game.
The Warriors’ focus on building an elite perimeter attack forced opposing teams to learn how to defend against it and also try to approximate it. The Warriors’ impact on how basketball is played at the highest level could be viewed as similar to the impact the Yankees had on the importance of power hitting in baseball nearly a century ago.
Just like not every baseball team has a Babe Ruth, not every basketball team has someone who can shoot and handle the ball like Steph Curry. But his influence caused teams to take risks trading 2-point shots for 3-point shots because they had too many possessions to stand a great chance of winning. Opponents had to find their own great marksmen. That’s why I call it the Steph Curry revolution.
MORE: Golden State Warriors history in NBA Finals
Tampa Bay Lightning (National Hockey League, USA)
- Title (2): 2020, 2021
- Second (2): 2015, 2022
- Notable Achievement: Equal NHL record of 62 wins in 2018–19 season (broken by the Boston Bruins in 2023).
The combination of the NHL’s salary cap, the inescapable randomness of a sport played on ice, and the arduous nature of the Stanley Cup playoffs makes keeping a dynasty in place a formidable challenge.
Sidney Crosby’s Pittsburgh Penguins, for example, won the Stanley Cup in 2016 and 2017, but only one playoff series in the seven seasons surrounding those triumphs. So what Tampa Bay has accomplished since hiring Jon Cooper to coach the team is impressive.
The Lightning’s back-to-back titles were obviously the culmination, part of an athletic renaissance in Tampa that included a World Series trip for the Rays in 2020 and a Super Bowl win for the Buccaneers in the 2020 season. They defeated the Dallas Stars in 2020 with a 4-2 series score in the Stanley Cup bubble and then conquered the truncated 2021 season by beating the Montreal Canadiens in a 4-1 Stanley Cup final.
The Lightning have won 18 playoff series over the past nine seasons and lost just six. Twice they were eliminated in the first round and failed entirely in 2018 when superstar Steven Stamkos was limited to just 17 games. Otherwise, they reached at least the conference finals every other season.
Kansas City Chiefs (National Football League, USA)
- Title (2): 2019, 2022
- Second (1): 2020
- Notable Achievement: QB Patrick Mahomes set the overall offensive record in 2022
This franchise started its attempt at starting a dynasty more recently than anyone else on the list.
Kansas City became a starter in the playoffs after signing head coach Andy Reid in 2012, but lost four of five playoff games until they were prescient enough to pick quarterback Patrick Mahomes as the #10 pick in the 2017 NFL draft. Since then, it’s largely been a killing spree.
With Mahomes occupying the sport’s most important position, Kansas City has won 78 percent of its regular-season games and 79 percent in the postseason. They’ve played in three Super Bowls in five seasons, missing a fourth with an overtime loss (although Mahomes and the KC offense never got a chance to step on the field under the rules of the time).
A key part of KC’s potential to continue to dominate is the deal Mahomes signed in 2020 — a 10-year deal valued at $503 million. By the end of this decade, his salary cap will break $50 million only once — in 2027, when he hits $62.3 million. Cleveland’s Deshaun Watson will top that number every season from 2024 through 2026, and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson will top $74.5 million in 2026 and 2027. Meanwhile, KC will have more money to pay tackles, wide receivers, and linebackers.
MORE: How the Chiefs rebuilt a Super Bowl roster for Patrick Mahomes
Houston Astros (Major League Baseball, USA)
- Title (2): 2017, 2022
- Second (2): 2019, 2021
- Notable Achievement: Retained the title in 2017 despite exposure of an infamous sign-theft scandal.
Overview: The Astros have won 100+ games four times since 2015 and averaged an impressive .595 win percentage over those eight seasons; If you factor out the COVID-shortened 2020 season, the Astros have won an average of 97 of their 162 games during that period.
This is the club that has caused the biggest scandal in the sport in a century since the Black Sox scandal of 1919. The members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox were accused of conspiring to host the World Series, which they lost to Cincinnati. Instead, the Astros developed an elaborate sign-stealing mechanism that propelled their batters to success throughout the 2017 season, including the World Series win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Astros averaged more than 7 runs in their four wins, including a 5-1 decision over LA’s Yu Darvish in the decider.
MORE: Astros cheating scandal explained
Two years later, news broke of cheating allegations against the Astros, and Major League Baseball launched an investigation. Eventually, the GM and manager were suspended from Major League Baseball — both were later fired from the team — and the club was fined $5 million and had several draft picks withdrawn.
The Astros then hired respected manager Dusty Baker and have been scandal-free ever since, reaching the Series in back-to-back seasons and winning behind Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander and World Series MVP Jeremy Pena in 2022.