Manchester City were flourishing under Pep Guardiola this time 12 months ago.
Now, they’re nowhere near claiming their third straight Premier League title and staring in the face of a punishment that could risk everything the club has built over the last decade.
UEFA have banned City from the Champions League for the next two seasons after finding them guilty of ‘serious breaches’ regarding Financial Fair Play regulations.
The accompanying €30 million (£25 million) fine is probably the least of their worries compared to other potential ramifications.
The Premier League are reportedly ‘highly likely’ to issue a points deduction, while Pep Guardiola is thought to be considering walking away if the ruling isn’t overturned.
City delivered a stinging response to the decision on Friday, suggesting they’re confident the charges will be dropped when they appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
It will be fascinating to see how the club might build a credible defence in what appears to be a precarious situation for the centrepiece of the City Football Group.
For example, renowned journalist Nick Harris has published an email allegedly detailing how City circumvented FFP by misrepresenting where money came from.
Said to be sent from the club’s former Chief Financial Officer Graham Wallace in 2012, it appears to reveal how City concealed owner funding and partnership income.
“We have an operational business need to be able to show separately the cash receipts into our bank account that relate to partnership income versus those that relate to direct equity funding,” it reads.
“What we therefore need is that the monies we are attributing to Etisalat, ADTA, Aabar and Etihad, as shown, are physically remitted to us by those businesses, as opposed to a combined receipt of partner/equity funding all remitted in one lump – we need this to be able to demonstrate the separation of ownership funding from Abu Dhabi based partner monies, to avoid any related party influence/control considerations.”
Under the guise of being “for audit purposes”, it’s difficult to overlook the irony of how the situation has played out.
You can read the full email below…
And what must Silver Lake be thinking, after the US investment firm paid $500m late last year for 10% of City Football Group – where Man City is the main asset. City presumably assured then there would be no CL ban. Boom time for lawyers.
— Nick Harris (@sportingintel) February 14, 2020
If correspondence of this nature is deemed as admissible evidence, City really do have their backs against the wall.
Only time will tell if the Citizens are found guilty, but hopefully, the events playing out serve as a warning regardless.