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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - As he reflects on lifting five Premier League titles in the past six years, Kyle Walker says just one in his career would have “more than satisfied” his desire to share trophy tales with his family in the years to come.
When he joined Manchester City in 2017, the only medal the England defender had to show as a professional was for Queens Park Rangers’ 2010-11 second-tier Championship success while he was on loan to the side at the start of that season.
In eight years at Tottenham Hotspur, the closest he came was a 2-0 League Cup final loss to Chelsea in 2015, despite being named PFA Young Player of the Year three years earlier.
It was a $61 million move to City that sparked the gold rush and moments to last a lifetime.
Now Walker has 13 major trophies to his name, but is far from finished, having extended his contract to 2026.
“I envisaged winning trophies because that’s why I signed for this club,” said Walker, 33. “But did I envisage winning as many trophies as I have done? Probably not, no.
“To win one Premier League, I would have been more than satisfied with. To win five, as I have done, and a Champions League, and go on and win a treble in one season, my dreams have come true.
“But you know, I can’t rest on that. This is the bar we have set as players, as a club and as an organization, and we need to keep moving in that direction.”
Last season’s historic treble of the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League remains fresh in the mind of Walker, whose footballing dreams were spawned while growing up on a Sheffield council estate.
The UEFA Super Cup followed in August, swaying his decision to reject interest from Bayern Munich to remain at City.
Another factor was Walker’s desire to be the best right-back in Premier League history.
Former Manchester United captain and England international Gary Neville has long been recognized as the finest in that position, having won eight titles, three FA Cups and the Champions League twice during 19 years at Old Trafford.
And Walker told Arab News exclusively: “It’s always about winning as much as I can and playing at the highest level possible.
“For me, I do want to be remembered and be in contention with the best-ever Premier League right-backs. If I’m in the question that’s what I’m bothered about.
“I’ve been doing it 10-11 seasons now and if I wasn’t doing it that long then I shouldn’t be considered.
“Gary Neville is the one that stands out most, definitely, for the titles he won with Manchester United and the player he was, not just for club, but for country as well.
“I feel he’s still right up there, definitely, but then you also look at the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Reece James, Kieran Trippier — it’s a real good pedigree of right-backs that we have.”
Walker, swift and steely in both defense and attack, feels that it is not just success with City that will enhance his status.
“Winning more trophies always helps to get that recognition,” he added. “But personally, if I can bring another level to my game then that will also do it — and I feel I have started off this season by doing that. Hopefully that makes people see my qualities.
“Football is about opinion and everyone has their opinion, and it is what it is, but as long as I’m in contention, I’ll be happy with that.”
When he does eventually finish playing, Walker will also feel proud of being part of a City team that can proudly stand alongside English football’s greatest Premier League teams, such as Neville’s Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger’s 2004 Arsenal “Invincibles.”
City, who visit Arsenal at Emirates Stadium on Sunday, are now pursuing an unprecedented fourth successive Premier League title.
“For me to compare against the teams like the United one that went on to win multiple titles would be unfair because it’s in a different era,” said Walker.
“I wasn’t there in that era, but I do know that the teams we are playing now and the individuals they have now, it’s scary.
“I do feel this is one of the best teams that I have seen in the Premier League era, most definitely — and I am just glad to be a part of it.
“To surpass what we did last season, it’s just about continuing to do the same. For us to win another treble would be fantastic but it’s very far-fetched — that comes around every so often.
“But then, can we do it? Of course we can. We have got the players to do it and we have got the manager behind us to do it.
That ambition and view is shared by teammate Manuel Akanji.
For the Swiss international, his first season with City was “nearly perfect” — missing out on the Carabao Cup was his only regret.
And, despite winning six of their first seven league games, Akanji believes City are “still in progress” and can get stronger, having undergone significant summer change.
Notable departures included Riyad Mahrez and Aymeric Laporte joining Saudi clubs Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr, as well as captain Ilkay Gundogan leaving for Barcelona and Cole Palmer for Chelsea.
In came Croatian pair Josko Gvardiol and Mateo Kovacic, along with Matheus Nunes and Jeremy Doku.
City visit an Arsenal side who were their main challengers last season, with Mikel Arteta’s Gunners letting an eight-point lead slip in a tense climax.
But Akanji added: “Our focus is not on Arsenal — our focus is on us, to win every game and to show a good performance. We are a team that believes and feels strong.
“That’s why we are all here, we want to win trophies. We won three last year and I hope we can at least repeat it this year.
“Last season would only have been better had we won the Carabao Cup as well. It was nearly perfect for me.”
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