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Ugly Football: Der Spiegel vs Manchester City

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City Hit with New Allegations by the German Newspaper

AFC Ajax v Manchester City FC - UEFA Champions League Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Following Manchester City’s remarkable 2017/18 season, the Blues looked to strengthen their squad for the upcoming 2018/19 season. Like any transfer window for any club, several players departed the Manchester camp. The Mancunian side also acquired Riyad Mahrez from Leicester City, and following what was a relatively quiet window, the Blues prepared for their title defence.

It has not come ease as the Blues unexpectedly lost three matches in December. Nonetheless, they now find themselves at the top of the English Premier League with nine matches left in the 2018/19 season. Having already won the EFL Cup Final, City are also in contention for the UEFA Champions League and the FA Cup. City’s football schedule is coming thick and fast, but after their brief dip in form in December, the Blues have bounced back remarkably. Whilst the title has yet to be decided, the fate of retaining the title rests in City’s hands.

It has not come without criticism, however. In November 2018, the German newspaper Der Spiegel published a four-part series on Manchester City, citing the club had violated a series of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules. The source, dubbed as “Football Leaks,” provided a series of emails and documents indicating that City personnel were willing to break various rules in order to acquire some of the best talent in world football.

The detailed accounts outline the amount of money the Blues spent over the past several transfer windows, and numerous backroom deals that were completed in order to acquire some of their talent, including current manager Pep Guardiola.

The Manchester staff denied these allegations, and this news subsided. A new publication by Der Spiegel this month, however, provides additional information on how City violated UEFA’s spending rules. Unlike the previous allegations, City have since remained quiet.

This is very concerning for City as both UEFA and FIFA take these violations very seriously. For example, Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid were “barred from registering new players for two transfer windows in January 2016” after violating protocol when signing youth players. Chelsea was also recently hit with a similar transfer ban.

The report outlining Chelsea’s violations also stated that four more English Premier League clubs will face these sanctions. Based on the reports published by Der Spiegel, and UEFA’s recent history with Manchester City, one could speculate City is one of the remaining clubs that could face sanctions. Moreover, City could potentially be barred from next season’s UEFA Champions League.

Based on these allegations, and the severity of these punishments, one could speculate City is already preparing for the worst. For example, the Blues signed American goalkeeper Zack Steffen for the upcoming 2019/20 season, and it is believed he will be Ederson’s replacement, given Claudio Bravo’s age and recent injury. Moreover, the Blues extended several player deals, with the most peculiar deal being that of Eliaquim Mangala; Oleksandr Zinchenko is also reportedly to sign a new contract following his impressive spell in his out-of-favour left back position. City may also welcome the return of Douglas Luiz, the defensive midfielder who could serve as a potential replacement for the aging Fernandinho.

Again, these may be coincidences, but the possibility of being punished for these potential FFP violations is very real. Should City be found guilty of these allegations, this will damage the reputation of the club, not to mention the massive financial losses the club would suffer should they be barred from the UEFA Champions League.

Alas, what is done is done. If City have indeed violated these rules, then they surely will be punished. But City must prepare accordingly. Otherwise, they will be in for a very long 2019/20 season.