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Well, this isn’t how I expected today to go. As Manchester City are in the midst of a “winter break”, players are out vacationing, enjoying some well deserved rest and then news breaks that the club has been banned for two years from the UEFA Champions League (and any UEFA competition), on top of a $32 million dollar fine for “serious breaches” of Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules.

Honestly, this is a gut punch. While the club have already put out a statement, in which they clearly have some frustrations to voice, there could be some serious trickle down affects from this. Yes, it’s obvious the club will fight tooth and nail here in the appeals CAS court. Yes there’s a chance the suspension gets decreased. Either way, the implications are very important.

Take a look at the current season. City are coming off of the most historic season in club history (in terms of trophy haul) and yet are widely being regarded as a club facing a rebuild. There’s a strong spine of the team on the tail end of their careers. There’s superstars and future stars (Sané and Braaf) rumored to want out. The world class manager in Pep Guardiola only has one year left on his contract. Adding a hefty fine (that type of fee could get you a solid player in the market) on top of two years outside of the worlds most popular club competition, City could be facing an uphill battle.

Let’s face it, whenever you look at players who are a hot commodity, they’re looking at big clubs to move to. If it’s down to a club competing in Europe vs one that’s not, they’re almost certainly going to pick the former. Now of course, City are an established side, a side who can pay their players more than a majority of clubs in world football, but there is a certain lure to the Champions League for modern day footballers that factor into any potential transfers they make.

So, if City are looking to sell off certain players to try and refreshen the squad, are teams going to hold City hostage for a cheaper fee knowing they’ll be a little more desperate to get funds? What about incomings? City will likely avoid spending big after this ban circled around FFP, so how do they refreshen a squad knowing they just got hit with a $32M fine (keeping in mind it may be appealed) and don’t have the ability to protest participation in Europe, for two years. Will players in their prime a la Sterling, KDB, Laporte, Cancelo, etc. want to stay at the club knowing they won’t be able to participate in the biggest competition possible for multiple seasons? While I truly believe (all bias aside) that most players in this side genuinely want to be at City (rather than just getting a paycheck to do a job), this simply cannot be ignored.

Players aside, let’s take a look at Pep Guardiola. The manager that City have been pursuing since the early days of the takeover. There’s endless stories written about his expiring contract (to take place in June 2021) and the lure of a Barca reunion, a Juve pursuit etc. Yes, he’s verbalized his commitment to see out his contract, but there were also brief discussions he’d consider an extension if the club were to give him an overhaul of the squad. It feels like that wouldn’t be worth his time now knowing recruiting will become that much harder with today’s news. These next 12-18 months in the market will be absolutely crucial to City’s next 5-10 years.

While it’s well known most City fans, especially those domestically don’t have a great feeling towards UEFA and the Champions League in particular, this ruling will only add fuel to that fire. However, the fans who are celebrating this ban simply because it gets City out of a competition that seems to be against them is foolish. Participation in Europe has a huge draw for incoming players as noted above, but it also is a huge revenue source, especially for clubs like City who progress through to the later rounds. For example, Liverpool reeled in over £80M for making it to, and winning the Champions League last year. Even for progressing to the quarter finals, you’d still be reeling in over 35-40M. For a club like City, doing that almost every year and then missing out on nearly £70M is massive, no matter how much money they really have.

For all that City have achieved in the past decade, with specific focus on the past few years, they’ve always been a club with an eye on the future and implementing stability and flexibility moving forward. This punishment from the hands of UEFA is a firm road block in City’s plans. Do they still have the board, and the finances to find success moving forward? Yes. Do they have an already established core and young group up and coming? Yes. Do I have faith in this team, this coach and this club to persevere? Yes. But at the end of the day, there’s absolutely nothing to be celebrating today.

Till next time…

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