City to spend big after two-year ban quashed
Guardiola can revamp squad following landmark court win Charges ‘not established’ or outside timescale, Cas rules
Manchester City will accelerate squad-rebuilding plans after their two-year European ban was dramatically quashed yesterday.
In a huge victory for City and a crushing blow to domestic and continental rivals, as well as Uefa, the Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld the club’s appeal against the suspension.
A three-man panel ruled that alleged breaches of financial fair play regulations for overstating sponsorship income were either “not established” or outside the fiveyear timescale permitted.
The club will have to pay a €10million (£9million) fine – down from the €30 million imposed by Uefa five months ago – after Cas found they had obstructed the investigation by the independent adjudicatory chamber of Uefa’s Club Financial Control Body.
“Manchester City did not disguise equity funding as sponsorship contributions but did fail to cooperate with the Uefa authorities,” Cas said in a statement.
It also emerged that:
City will step up efforts to revamp an ageing squad after avoiding a potential £200 million hit to revenues, with a central defender and left-back the priority as manager Pep Guardiola seeks to reconstruct his fragile defence. Kalidou Koulibaly, the Napoli centre-half, and Leicester’s Ben Chilwell are on City’s radar.
Kevin De Bruyne will stay and Raheem Sterling could be in line for a new contract as the threat of key players agitating for moves and multi-million pound compensation payouts to players was averted. Fifth position in the Premier League will not secure a Champions League spot this season, leaving Manchester United, Chelsea and Leicester to battle it out for the remaining two places. Uefa faced calls to reform its FFP rules after experts claimed the existing model was “in tatters”. La Liga president Javier Tebas said Cas was “not up to standard” and called on European football to review its appeals process. City remain incensed by a joint letter eight Premier League rivals sent to Cas this year in which opposition was registered to the prospect of City’s Champions League ban next season being put on hold if an appeal had still to be heard.
The Cas ruling could now boost City’s hopes of persuading Guardiola to sign an extension to his contract, which expires next summer.
It is also likely to influence the outcome of a parallel investigation by the Premier League into City’s finances and behaviour, after complaints by top-flight clubs last year.
The Premier League has the power to issue points deductions and/or a transfer embargo, although those prospects appear increasingly unlikely now City have been cleared by Cas.
City have long denied any wrongdoing and said in a statement yesterday that the judgment was “validation of the club’s position and the body of evidence that it was able to present”.
Uefa had accused City of “serious breaches” of its FFP rules and claimed the club inflated sponsorship income between 2012 and 2016. But City felt the adjudicatory chamber’s case was based “more on out-of-context stolen emails” – which had been released to the German magazine, Der Spiegel, as part of the Football Leaks cache –
It was a tongue-in-cheek response but it was revealing all the same. The news that Manchester City had won their appeal against a twoseason European ban from Uefa had not long circulated yesterday morning when it was suggested to one official at the club that “the elephant in the room” had been removed.
“Not yet it hasn’t,” came the reply. On the one hand, it was a reflection of City’s long-held confidence that, given a “fair process”, they would be exonerated by the Court of Arbitration for Sport over alleged breaches of Uefa’s financial fair play rules and, on the other, acknowledgement that there was still the pressing issue of manager Pep Guardiola’s future to resolve.
It is certainly a question Guardiola will be asked when he addresses the media this lunchtime ahead of City’s game against Bournemouth tomorrow, but there is not expected to be a great deviation from what he has been saying for weeks.
Having entered the final 12 months of his contract, Guardiola is under no illusions that his future will need addressing in one form or another before long but, with a Champions League and FA Cup to win and another “treble” to target, he has made it clear to his paymasters that he does not want any disthan
and that there will be time to talk at the end of the season.
Yet City will certainly feel the Cas ruling will boost their prospects of keeping a manager who has redefined expectations around playing styles and points tallies in the Premier League and remains the man whom the club want to spearhead a rebuild of an ageing squad.
Two years without Champions League football might have been hard for Guardiola to stomach, all the more so if European glory again proves elusive this term, and it would certainly have impinged on the money the Catalan has to spend. Neither is an issue now, nor must Guardiola contend with the prospect of star players such as Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling asking to discuss their options, or potential signings grumbling about an absence of Champions League football.
But they are likely to want to know if Guardiola will be in charge beyond the end of the season, and it is hard to believe the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach – one of the game’s straight-shooters – would choose to deliberately mislead would-be recruits. Robin van Persie has never quite got over the “great disappointment” of Sir Alex Ferguson telling him he would remain as Manchester United manager for “at least three more years” only to announce his retirement 12 months after the Dutchman had joined the club.
Although Van Persie said he chose Old Trafford over City in 2012 because the “little boy inside of me was screaming for Man United”, he later admitted he signed for Ferguson, and many players feel the same way about Guardiola’s rare talents.
The consequences of yesterday’s court ruling aside, Guardiola has never rebuilt one of the great sides he has created and part of him must be motivated by that challenge.
It is a process he will at least start, though, having vowed to see out the remaining 12 months of his existing contract. After victory over Brighton on the final day of last season clinched the title by a point from Liverpool, Guardiola said he knew exactly what he had to do to ensure City stayed on top.
He could not have envisaged then that, 14 months on, his team would trail Liverpool by 21 points but City will not allow another transfer window to pass without finally bringing in a replacement for Vincent Kompany.
Whether that leads City to Napoli’s £75million-rated Kalidou Koulibaly or another centre-back among the plethora they have scouted remains to be seen, but City’s rebuild will focus on reconstruction of a defence who have routinely been their Achilles’ heel this season. Frustrated by Benjamin Mendy’s injuries and lapses of concentration, Guardiola also wants a leftback, with Leicester’s Ben Chilwell an option.
How many signings City make will be influenced by a number of factors – including player departures and the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the transfer market – but Guardiola is conscious that Sergio Aguero, 32, and Fernandinho, 35, are in the final year of their contracts and David Silva will exit at the end of the season. Leroy Sane’s sale to Bayern Munich has further depleted his options and, while the strides taken by Phil Foden excite Guardiola and may be one reason he opts to stay, there is work to do on a squad who need surgery in specific areas.
One elephant in the room has been removed but another still needs tackling.
On the radar... Three players who could be heading to the Etihad
Highly-regarded Senegal centre-back,29, has three years left on his contract with Napoli but would prove a quality partner for Aymeric Laporte as Pep Guardiola plans to reconstruct his defence. Kalidou Koulibaly
The midfielder is likely to leave boyhood club Aston Villa if they are relegated from the Premier League, and the 24-year-old would also boost City’s homegrown quota. The England left-back is coveted by Chelsea but Leicester could demand in excess of £70 million. City have looked in the past at the 23-year-old, with Guardiola keen to address that position. Jack Grealish Ben Chilwell