DUBAI // The only thing Manchester City lack in their quest for European domination is the one thing money cannot buy: time. That is the view of Mark Van Bommel and Massimo Ambrosini, the AC Milan midfielders, who between them share three Champions League winners' medals.
Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, since acquiring City in August 2008, has invested in big-name players and improved the club's infrastructure. The ambition is to become one of the world's most successful clubs and, as they top the Premier League this month, they appear on the right track.
This season, City competed in the Champions League for the first time, just three years after Sheikh Mansour's take over.
However, the Milan duo believe City need to have patience in their search for success.
"If you have a lot of money, you can buy good players, but it is not a guarantee that you will win the Champions League," said Van Bommel, who lifted the trophy in 2006 with Barcelona. "You have to buy the right players - not only good players, but also good characters. You need to consider the way you play, the culture of the players and team, and how the trainer works with the team.
"It takes time."
Ambrosini, the 34-year-old Milan captain, agrees with his Dutch teammate.
"With money, you can buy the best players, but having the best players does not necessarily mean you have the best team. Having the best team can take years," he said at an Adidas promotional event.
The Italian worked with Carlo Ancelotti at Milan for eight seasons, winning the Champions League in 2003 and 2007.
"It is not normal that a coach is with AC Milan for eight years," Van Bommel said. "Manchester United have had Sir Alex Ferguson at the helm for a remarkable 25 years, but City's Roberto Mancini has only just passed two years in charge."
"The challenge for Manchester City is to try and keep the same manager, and the same players, for years," Ambrosini said. "Only then can they build stability. That is what Milan did, that is what Manchester United did, Juventus too. That is the secret. Time - this is what Manchester City need."
"AC Milan has been linked with takeovers for three years, but I am not sure our president would sell the club," Ambrosini said. "Italian owners love their teams too much, so I think maybe the investors know what clubs they can buy or not."