While Manchester City have already announced that they will be appealing UEFA's decision to ban the team from competing in all European competitions until the 2022/23 season, the impact of this ruling could prove to be catastrophic for one of the decade's most potent footballing forces, as their chances of winning the one trophy which has eluded them throughout their history look significantly slimmer as a consequence of serious breaches to Financial Fair Play Regulations.
The decision may have a significant impact on manager Pep Guardiola, who has not won a Champions League trophy since 2011 with his unstoppable Barcelona side, spearheaded by the mercurial Lionel Messi. While Guardiola’s contract should keep him at Manchester City until 2021, the possibility of spending the next two seasons at a club with no possibility of even competing in the Champions League is one that could easily drive him elsewhere.
Guardiola has been on a rampage throughout his career, tearing through Europe’s wealthiest and most influential clubs with unlimited resources and commercial backing, attempting to prove that he can make the best clubs even better. It is this need for wealth that garners criticism, as a manager who needs the best players to perform, a fact that Pep himself recently acknowledged, very honestly, in an interview with Sky Sports Football:
‘I never felt I am the best, when I win [in Barcelona] six titles in a row, won triples, I never felt that. I won because I had extraordinary players in the big clubs…. Give me a team that isn’t like Manchester City, I’m not going to win.’
The ban could prove to be Pep’s biggest challenge yet, as senior players at the peak of their quality such as Kevin De Bruyne may be inclined to leave the club. Players already seeming to have one foot out of the door, like Leroy Sane, may feel that they are forced to take that extra step. If these talented players are to leave, it could prove very difficult for Manchester City to attract top quality footballing talent without European competition.
A main factor in the glittering success that City had in the Premier League over the past two seasons comes in their squad depth. Their lowered appeal to players inside and outside of the club could be worrying, not to mention the rumoured points deduction that they may face this season, nor the immense success of a rampant (and currently undefeated) Liverpool side. Manchester City’s future may be a bleak one, slipping further and further away from their place as Jurgen Klopp’s main rival.
However, with the resources that the club have through the backing of owner Sheikh Mansour, holding onto their current players could be feasible. The biggest issue comes from the ludicrous spending that the club has rolled out over past seasons, with an estimated £539,721,000 spent since Pep’s arrival in 2016. While the winning of the Premier League has been impressive, if the club cannot win the world’s biggest club competition, their project risks being labelled a failure. They must now go all out to bring home the trophy this season. It may be Pep’s last chance at the club, and if it can be done, Manchester City may feel satisfied considering the circumstances they find themselves in.
Pep knows it too, stating "the season is a disaster, but if you win the Champions League it is exceptional". This is no easy task though, with the formidable European giants Real Madrid lying in wait at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on the 26th. Time will tell if their appeal will be successful, but if it isn’t Guardiola must attempt to pull a something from the ruins. It will be a crucial end to the season for a club that is looking increasingly like a weakened giant.
Fin Cousins is an English literature student studying at Kings College London, he is an avid consumer of sports, fashion and music. He is still waiting for his rap career to take off.
Paul Ellis is a member of the British Press Photographers Association and the Sports Journalists Association and has been a staff photographer with Agence France-Presse in the north of England since 2006. He is most often found at Premier League and Champions League football matches and World Cups in football, rugby and cricket. Find him on instagram, twitter and visit his website here.
Thanks for reading! Slow Motion Panic Masters is a music, arts and culture blog created and edited by Ben Wheadon, a literature student and musician based in London, England.