City’s ban plunges them into turmoil

  • Say What
  • Tuesday, 18 Feb 2020

ON Friday UEFA banned Manchester City from European competitions (the Champions League and the Europa League) for the next two seasons after finding them guilty of breaching financial fair play regulations. City immediately issued a statement to say that they were “disappointed but not surprised.” That sounds like an understatement to me. The club will appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in a bid to have the decision overturned.

The outcome of that review will be more dramatic than anything VAR has produced this season.

Last week I considered the possibility, albeit small, of Lionel Messi joining the Citizens. There’s absolutely no chance of that happening if Champions League football is not part of the deal.

Instead, City will be far more worried about who might leave, starting with manager Pep Guardiola.

Speculation about his future has grown along with his seeming disgruntlement. In the past few days Pep has spoken of the prospect of being sacked if he doesn’t win the Champions League. This season could well be his last chance to do so now at City.

Guardiola’s record in the Champions League since moving to Manchester is less than impressive, especially given that must have been the priority KPI when he arrived.

City have under-performed in Europe and have now dropped their standards domestically from the highs of recent seasons.

From such a dominant position of late, uncertainty now surrounds almost every aspect of the club.

Will Pep leave? Juventus are currently being heavily linked with him.

What about players like Kevin de Bruyne and Raheem Sterling? They are not likely to be content to enjoy the Champions League as spectators.

The Premier League is also conducting its own investigation into Manchester City’s financial dealings and so there’s a chance that further repercussions could follow. All things considered, they’re starting to make Manchester United look stable and well-run by comparison.

Their Manchester neighbours may turn out to be one of the early beneficiaries of City’s plight.

If the European ban is upheld then there’s a strong chance that the team who finish fifth this season will qualify for the Champions League.

Expect Sheffield United to still have something to say about that though; Spurs and Arsenal will also suddenly feel as though the distance between them and the Champions League has just shrunk.

The title race is now no more than a procession for Liverpool but the race for fifth, and potentially even fourth, will have many horses in it.

There’s plenty of excitement, drama, and debate left in this remarkable Premier League season.

Many questions remain to be answered as well. Does the strict implementation of the financial fair play rules herald a new era in the European game?

If the ban is upheld, what shape will City be in by the end of it? At what point does the (financial) gap between the biggest clubs and the rest become unsustainable?

As the Premier League plays out its half-hearted winter break, interrupted first by FA Cup replays and then by storm Ciara, the major talking points have occurred off the field.

For City, bigger and darker clouds are now gathering on the horizon. They don’t look like they will clear quickly or easily.

No doubt they will look forward to having a game of football to focus on against West Ham tomorrow. Then later this month they will face Real Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League.

As if that game wasn’t big enough, it might be their last European tie for two years.

Craig Wilkie, Football Writer, Football Coach, Football Fan.

The views expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of The Star.

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