Even in Manchester City’s treble-winning celebrations evidence of what comes next was present.
Jack Grealish pressed his hands together in prayer and pleaded with Bernardo Silva not to leave, Pep Guardiola sought out Riyad Mahrez for what looked like a significant goodbye and, post-party just days after holding the Champions League trophy aloft for the people of Manchester, Ilkay Gundogan was pictured finalizing a move to Barcelona.
But the club wasn’t done there, reports emerged Kyle Walker was poised to move to Bayern Munich and join Aymeric Laporte, whose likely exit has been well-known for some time, in the departure lounge.
What outsiders, or indeed many City fans might wonder, is why the club would seek to dissemble the most glorious team in its history so soon after the achievement.
An insight into the reason it is willing to have so many of the first-team squad depart can be found in the words of manager Pep Guardiola before the season finished.
“People are going to say now next season just Manchester City can win the Premier League – stupid comments,” he said after the club lifted the trophy against Chelsea.
“The only problem with stupid comments is they get in your head.
“Next season will be tougher because all the clubs want to beat us, they don’t like to see all the time one team win, win, win. They want to beat you and that is the challenge.
“But if they want it, they have to do better than us. If it happens, then it’s part of sport, congratulations,” he added.
After two Premier League titles on the bounce, complacency is something Guardiola has been battling throughout the campaign.
His frustrations boiled over after a 4-2 comeback victory against Tottenham Hotspur where he famously labeled his side a “happy flowers team.”
“Passion, fire and desire to want to win [was missing] from the first minute,” Guardiola raged.
“Our fans were silent for 45 minutes. We are far away from the team that we were. There are many things that we are far away.
“It is not one single player, everyone is there. It is everyone, as soon as we realize it, we will come back. Our fans must push us, must demand more, have to shout. Today we were lucky but nine times, 10 times you don’t come back.
“I want a reaction for all the club, all the organization, the players, the staff. We are a happy flowers team. I don’t want to be a happy flowers, I want to beat Arsenal but if we play in that way Arsenal will destroy, they will beat us.”
This in essence is why Guardiola wants to shake up the team. He knows that success can be addictive but can also diminish the fire within.
So changing players who’ve won lots for others with the desire to compete is part of the way success is maintained.
An interesting contrast to that approach can be found in the last team to win the treble: Manchester United.
The ‘Rolex’ effect
After completing English soccer’s first-ever treble in 1999 legendary coach Sir Alex Ferguson signed no players.
The most notable decision by the club that year was to pull out of the FA Cup to avoid fixture congestion with the Intercontinental Cup it was due to play that winter.
If this refusal to change the side resulted in a lack of hunger it didn’t have an immediate effect.
The 1999/2000 and 2000/01 seasons ended with Manchester United winning successive Premier League crowns.
But captain Roy Keane felt the failure to strengthen in the wake of the treble did prompt a decline albeit later on.
After ending the 2001-02 season trophy-less the Irishman highlighted the moment of glory as the start of the team’s struggles.
“People used to say we won when we deserved to get beaten. Last season we were just beaten,” he said post-season.
“It was the team that leaked goals. The team. Finger-pointing was useless. We weren’t hungry fighters anymore.
“That feeling in my gut the night we clinched the treble kept coming back to my mind.
“The champagne was flowing, people were going crazy – but my belief was we had been lucky against a Bayern Munich team that bottled it.
“The following year we won the league by 10 points and Bayern Munich knocked us out of Europe. I felt sick to my heart.
“We should have bought big after the treble, gone for the best, freshened things up, attacked the complacency and let those who didn’t care if they never won another trophy join the sort of clubs that don’t win any.”
Interestingly, when the side’s form did start to falter it wasn’t the treble winners themselves who were blamed for the struggles.
Juan Sebastián Verón, Laurent Blanc, Fabien Barthez and Diego Forlán were all in different ways emblematic of the tricky evolution to the next generation of success.
None fulfilled their potential despite being hugely successful elsewhere.
Perhaps it should serve as a warning to Guardiola that the main issue United had was not that they lost their desire, it was that those who replaced players who peaked in 1999 weren’t able to replicate the success.
Not that Keane saw it that way, in his view attributing the dip to the newcomers was a cop-out.
“Blame Seba [Juan Sebastian Veron] – it’s too easy,” he said at the time, “some of the others were getting away with murder. Glory, believing the publicity, had cost us.
“Rolex watches, garages full of cars, mansions, set up for life – then forgot about the game and lost the hunger that got you the Rolex, the cars and the mansion.”
United did bounce back after 2001-02’s disappointment to reclaim the Premier League, but it was to prove the last for three seasons as Ferguson oversaw one of his most barren spells at the club.
This struggle came as the last remnants of the treble side were being replaced by the next great United team of that era who would also claim a Champions League trophy.
But in total that process took nearly a whole decade, so you can understand why City might want to move quicker.