“Better late than never,” declared Javier Tebas, the president of La Liga. “At last Uefa is taking decisive measures. Imposing financial fair play rules and punishing financial doping is essential for the future of football.” For Tebas, this was vindication and also just the start: he has long denounced what he calls “state-clubs”, and he wants moves against PSG too. For others in Spain, the focus was turned more towards the immediate implications, although the news was equally huge: it was front page everywhere, exclamation marks underlining the shock. “City, out of Europe!” said Marca. AS went for “OUT”, in English. “Blow for City: two years without the Champions!” said Sport. “Jaque al jeque,” ran the cover of El Mundo Deportivo: check against the sheik.
Whether it is checkmate will depend on the appeal but, as Sport put it, this could “bring the whole castle crumbling down”; “City’s project is in serious danger”. Everywhere, there were photos of Pep Guardiola in a series of concerned poses: head in hands, distant look. The accusations date from before his arrival, of course, but in Spain he remains the image of City and much was made of what this might mean for him and his players: lists of men who might depart were drawn up, Guardiola at the top of them. “The punishment brings him closer to Juventus,” AS said. And it won’t be long before his footballers are linked to clubs here. It’s easier to fish in a raging river, as they say in Spain. SL
City’s Champions League ban was front-page news for all of Italy’s leading sports newspapers, and for the biggest – Gazzetta dello Sport – it was the lead story. The pink paper contended that their ban “had shaken world football, not just English football, because this [financial] strategy belongs to more teams than just City”.
Most of all, though, Italy’s sporting media was eager to discuss what it might mean for the future of Guardiola. The manager was linked with Juventus in the summer. The man who got the job instead, Maurizio Sarri, has come under fire after claiming just one win in his last four games.
“The hunt for Guardiola begins,” ran the headline in Corriere dello Sport, but others insist that it started some time ago. “Uefa’s sentence for City was one of the first tiles in the complicated mosaic of the Guardiola to Juventus story,” wrote Radio Sportiva’s Federico Gennarelli on Twitter. “I’m happy that we now know a little more of that truth that [some Italian journalists] tried to report in the summer. Making mistakes, perhaps, but always with humility.” NB
It might not quite be the ethical footballing utopia that many assume, but the 50+1 rule does underpin slightly different rules and values to its continental cousins – so it’s no surprise to see a fairly positive (and pleasantly surprised) reaction to news of City’s ban.
“The message is clear,” writes Bild’s Matthias Brügelmann. “There are not just rules on the pitch, but off it – and everyone must abide by them, no matter whether it’s Manchester City or SC Freiburg.” Total judgment is, understandably, being held back pending the Premier League champions’ promised legal challenge, but the Uefa president, Aleksander Ceferin, is being praised for his stand, with Kicker’s editor, Jörg Jakob, saying it will banish FFP’s image as “just a paper tiger”.
There’s self-interest too, of course, with optimism that any City ban would “increase [Bundesliga] chances of winning the Champions League”, as Brügelmann writes, “since sheiks or other donors can’t let their money pipelines bubble indefinitely”. AB
“And lightning split the blue sky …” was the line in L’Équipe on Saturday morning, with France’s premier sports daily devoting no more than a half-page to the news that Manchester City have been provisionally excluded from European competition for the next two campaigns. Despite L’Équipe mobile app users receiving an exclamation mark-littered push notification last night when the news first broke, reporting in France in general on the matter has so far been low-key and if anything sympathetic to the Citizens for being on the receiving end of a shock Uefa sentence. The mood was well summarised by Yalouz Ghani, Director General of the National Institute of Sport Expertise and Performance, on BeIN Sports: “I think it is a bit harsh because it is going to ruffle the feathers of a lot of clubs across the world, especially here [in France], if Manchester City end up being sanctioned. But there is a rule, a rule it is applicable to all. If this holds there will be a lot of clubs in the line of sight.”
The inevitable “but what about PSG?” questions that animated United Kingdom-residing football supporters on social media shortly after the news broke have not been reiterated over the Channel. Perhaps owing to the fact that this charge against Manchester City pertains to their financial activity in 2012-16, a time period for which PSG were recently exempted from being further investigated about following a Cas ruling in March 2019. AW
* This article was corrected on 17 February 2020. The name of the Uefa president is Aleksander Ceferin, not Aleksander Seferin.