I had to - my thoughts on City’s ban

Published: Monday, 17 February 2020

Where to start? That’s the problem. There are so many different aspects to the Manchester City case.

What I know for sure is that I don’t want to see sanctions from the PL that would lead to City’s on-field achievements being expunged from the record books. I’m not Guardiola’s biggest fan - I think that came across pretty clearly in my most recent blog on the Spaniard - sorry, the Catalonian - but what his Manchester City have given us has been nothing short of breathtaking at times. Only United fans have failed to enjoy watching them and that’s understandable. You know my view - Guardiola has failed in both Munich and Manchester (so far) to deliver the one trophy he was employed to win, but the football has been joyous at The Etihad (can we still call it that?).

I know this isn’t a very strong argument - and there are many that will offer the alternative view - that they couldn’t have done it without the financial skulduggery that was going on - I get that, but none of it is the fault of the players employed to deliver the dreams. They did their bit with flair, brilliance and honesty. Although I’m not convinced Guardiola can argue the same mitigation. No - let the records and the trophies stand. City’s fans parted with their money believing in what they were being sold.

Are UEFA right to go after City? Yes. One hundred per cent. You can argue all day long about the merits of FFP, but it’s a waste of time doing so. City signed up to the rules. They knew what they were doing. No-one held a gun to Begiristain or Soriano’s heads Far smarter brains than mine will eventually decide - but right now it would appear that the management at City knew exactly what they were doing and wilfully decided to find a way to circumvent the rules. They got caught, so now they have to face the consequences.

Regular beINSPORTS watchers will know this is a story Andy and I have been talking about on K&G for many many months. What always surprised me was how little the rest of the UK press wanted to do with ‘Footie-leaks’. Time and again I spoke to friends back in the UK and asked ‘Why the silence?’ It seemed only Rob Harris, the excellent AP reporter, was prepared to ‘follow the money’. When he questioned Guardiola about these matters after the Cup Final last May it was as though he broke the code of ‘love Guardiola’. His line of questioning was frowned upon by the rest of the room. You could feel the dis-satisfaction. He was right though  And he was right to go after the story. I hope you’ve had a good week Rob.

Anyway - K&G. Almost weekly we’d speak to reporters at Der Spiegel. Some of the things they told us were mind blowing - but where were they getting the info from? Someone mentioned the name Rui Pinto to me. I went on line and dug about. He wasn’t a secret, but no-one was talking about him outside of Germany. And it was evident he’d seriously pissed off people in Portugal, his country of birth.

I don’t want to get too deeply into the story - it’s all available on-line - but it bothers me that as UEFA congratulate themselves on a job well done - the source of all their information is languishing in a Portuguese jail facing 90 separate counts of hacking, sabotage and fraud. He failed as recently as Thursday - 24 hours before City were nailed - with an appeal.

Amongst the allegations is the serious matter that he tried to extort a ‘generous donation’ out of Sporting Club of Portugal of between 500,000 and one million euros. If they paid - Pinto and his company,Doyen, would ‘lose’ some of the documents that would embarrass Sporting. We don’t know. It’s a charge unproven. What we do know is that City wouldn’t have been in the dock without Pinto’s information.

Here was the problem the British press had with the story. It’s City’s main line of defence as well. Can we use ‘stolen’ information to convict wrong-doers? I don’t know the answer - but my feeling is that it’s no bad thing if we use information- however it comes to light - to hold arrogance and rule-breakers to account.

City’s problems have delighted many - not least La Liga’s President Javier Tebas. But - again, I’d like to know where the line is when you’re ‘bending’ rules. Is it ok for Real Madrid to sell a square metre of their training ground to the govt for millions? It turned out it wasn’t and Real had to buy the land back - for a euro. That must’ve hurt!

Is it ok for the Spanish govt to treat Real and Barcelona as ‘special cases’ offering huge tax advantages to both clubs? It’s not really is it? If I was Senor Tebas I’d pipe down. It’s always been the case - don’t shine the torch to brightly into the corners of the room. Do we think everybody in Italy plays by the rules?

We won’t know the outcome of City’s appeal for some time yet - and here we go again - but, what if? Jonathan Wilson’s column in The Guardian today (Monday) makes for a fascinating read. What if - FIFA jump on this and manipulate it to their own end? What if City feel they don’t need UEFA? What if FIFA can offer riches enough to fill the void of a European ban with their own creative ideas and tournaments? What if....?

I don’t believe that route is one many other would follow, but football hasn’t stopped evolving since 1992, when the PL was set up. It remains the model that the rest of football would like to smash. So, what if.....?