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

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By James Ducker NORTH­ERN FOOTBALL COR­RE­SPON­DENT

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

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