In November 2018, German magazine Der Spiegel reported that City and its sponsors manipulated contracts to circumvent UEFA’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules, introduced in 2011 to stop clubs overspending.
Leaked emails obtained by Der Spiegel from the Football Leaks organization suggested City’s Abu Dhabi owners had paid the club directly rather than Etihad, which is the club’s shirt sponsor and has naming rights for its stadium. Der Spiegel, citing club documents, alleged the airline financed only part of the sponsorship deal, with the owners coming up with the rest.
FFP rules state clubs can only lose $32 million over three seasons otherwise they will be liable to a fine or suspension.
On Friday, CFCB said City had broken the rules and, significantly, “failed to cooperate in the investigation.” In its statement, City said the emails had been taken out of context and the case had been “initiated by UEFA, prosecuted by UEFA and judged by UEFA.”
In the immediate aftermath, the future of Guardiola, widely regarded as the finest manager of his era, has been the main focus.
Under Guardiola’s leadership, City has broken records and played mesmerizing football.
But in his four years in Manchester, one trophy has eluded him, which was the main reason he was brought to the club — the Champions League, the richest competition in European football.
Only last week Guardiola talked of how he might be sacked if he does not win European football’s top prize soon. That statement may have been overdramatic, but if UEFA’s decision is upheld, Guardiola needs to win the Champions League this season or likely face never winning the trophy he covets the most with City.
Will Guardiola be happy to wait until 2023 to restart his Champions League quest with City? By the end of his present contract, he will have stayed at City longer than at any of his previous clubs. And with unprecedented heights already scaled on the domestic front, many are asking what would motivate him to stay.
Even before Friday’s seismic punishment, it had become clear City would have to rebuild in the summer.
With Liverpool currently 22 points ahead of City in the league, the club needs an injection of players if it is to reclaim its position as the dominant team in England.
Veteran midfielder David Silva is to leave at the end of the season. It is uncertain whether striker Sergio Aguero, City’s all-time leading scorer, will remain beyond his current deal, which ends in 2021. Young forward Leroy Sane is also being heavily linked with a move to Bayern Munich.
If Guardiola leaves, so could a number of other stars. Raheem Sterling and Kevin de Bruyne are in long-term deals, but they will want to test themselves against the best.
With rich owners, money is not a problem for City — but without the prestige of Champions League football, will City still be able to attract elite players? UEFA’s punishment has shaken City. It could also lead to an end of an era.