Man City win streak: Meet Lanexang, club with world's longest active run
Manchester City have broken new ground in English top-flight football with their 18-match Premier League winning streak, but they are still one game short of equalling the 19-game mark set by a club in Southeast Asia known as The Power of a Million Elephants.
Pep Guardiola will draw level with the record run of victories across Europe's top five leagues which he set during his time in charge of Bayern Munich in 2014 if City can beat Crystal Palace on New Year's Eve. And he will also match the longest active streak registered in Laos.
Lanexang United strung together 19 consecutive league victories on the way to clinching the 2016 Lao Premier League and qualifying for the 2017 AFC Cup -- Asia's equivalent of the UEFA Europa League.
The club based in the capital Veintiane, nicknamed after an army of the world's largest land mammals, embarked on their winning streak between May and October of 2016 under Brazilian coach Leonardo Vitorino. They would finish the season on 73 points out of a possible 78, with just one defeat, and a plus-78 goal difference.
"Just like Manchester City, we wore blue, were known as the big spenders of the league, and had quick wingers like Raheem Sterling, and technical strikers like Sergio Aguero," Lanexang United's former general manager Kaz Patafta told ESPN FC.
"We spent a lot of money, were the only club in Laos to have their own stadium, and were investing in a youth academy. I guess you could say we were a little like Man City, but on a much smaller scale."
Lanexang United's achievement even drew praise from FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who wrote a personal letter of congratulation to the club, hailing the "dynamism and commitment" in winning the title.
They seemed on the verge of greatness across Asia before disaster struck after the draw for the 2017 AFC Cup, meaning they wouldn't be able to add to their active streak of 19 consecutive victories.
The nation of Laos was caught up in a match-fixing scandal. While none of their players were implicated, Lanexang United made the decision to withdraw from national and regional competitions with immediate effect.
In February 2017, the Asian Football Confederation handed out life bans to 22 players from Laos and neighbouring Cambodia for corruption. Fifteen of the 22 were former players of Lao Toyota, the 2015 Laos champions.
"We had a zero tolerance at our club towards corruption, but even so, it was not feasible to continue in 2017, even after our winning streak the previous season," Patafta said. "Apart from the corruption problem, it was also hard to commercially sustain our club without the full support of the Lao Football Federation."
Australian-born to a Lao mother and Croatian father, Patafta is a former Melbourne Victory midfielder and ex-Young Socceroos' captain. A former Benfica youth player, he crossed paths with Manchester City midfielder Bernardo Silva at the Portuguese giants, and hopes that the Premier League leaders can equal their 19-match mark by winning at Selhurst Park on Sunday.
"To even be mentioned in same breath as Manchester City is a huge compliment. Like them, we put a lot of work into our streak, and we are very proud of it. It would be good to see Man City reach and surpass our milestone, as it would be a huge, and well-deserved achievement," he said.
"But technically, Lanexang United still exists, so there is always the possibility of one day adding to our 19-game league winning streak."
According to UEFA, the longest-ever league winning streak in European football is 29 games, set by Patafta's old club Benfica, between 1971 and 1973.
In 2003-04, Celtic achieved a British record of 25 league consecutive victories under Martin O'Neill.
Should City close out 2017 with another win, they will be setting their sights on those landmarks.
Jason Dasey is ESPN FC Senior Editor in Singapore. Formerly Asian editor of FourFourTwo, he was also a CNN and BBC broadcaster. Twitter: @JasonDasey.