UEFA’s decision to hit Manchester City with a two-season ban from European football for Financial Fair Play breaches is likely to send shockwaves across elite club football.
But what next for the reigning Premier League champions at the eye of the storm?
Here, we have a look at what Friday’s judgement means for City, Pep Guardiola and his Etihad Stadium stars.
Appeal could see City feature in next season’s Champions League
City were swift in their response to UEFA’s punishment, announcing their intention to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Irrespective of whether City are successful in their attempts to overturn the sanctions or not, any CAS case is likely to run for months, meaning the appeal could still be ongoing when next season’s Champions League rolls around.
However, even if this means City kick the can down the road and line up in Europe’s top competition in 2020-21, there is little doubt the spectre of UEFA coming down hard on the club does little for long-term planning.
Guardiola is under contract at City until the end of 2020-21 and, throughout the course of an uneven campaign this time around, has frequently hinted he could be open to a longer stay.
The prospect of being denied annual shots at the competition that has eluded him since a second win with Barcelona in 2010-11 might change that, while UEFA landed their bombshell during the same week rumours linking Guardiola to Juventus surfaced once more.
The 49-year-old might find it harder than most managers to separate himself emotionally from boardroom events, given his close friend Ferran Soriano – a man instrumental in bringing him to Manchester – is City’s chief executive officer and mastermind of their commercial strategy. Will his response be motivated more by loyalty or disappointment?
Summer rebuild on ice?
Despite intermittently hitting their brilliant best, City’s laboured pursuit of Liverpool this season has suggested the end of a cycle for a gifted squad that has swept all before them domestically.
At least one centre-back, a left-back, a winger and possible even another central attacker could all have been on the agenda, but a prospective Champions League ban must now alter City’s transfer plans.
Leroy Sane’s long-rumoured exit now appears even more likely, while Europe’s elite might even chance their arm with enquiries over the likes of Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva.
Time for the Foden generation
City will now be on the outside looking in as a cluster of Europe’s elite pursue their former academy product Jadon Sancho, but the immediate prospects for those currently in residence at the Etihad Campus look to have suddenly improved.
Guardiola has long earmarked 2020-21 as the campaign where Phil Foden will come to long-awaited prominence, given David Silva is bringing down the curtain on a glorious decade in Manchester when this season concludes.
Centre-back reinforcement can also come from within in the form of Eric Garcia and Taylor Harwood-Bellis, while the prodigiously gifted Jayden Braaf might find some of his reported disciplinary problems within the academy system can now be met with a blind eye.
Domestic dominance 2.0
City will cede the Premier League to a relentless Liverpool but their 2018-19 treble might be chased again with renewed vigour next term.
The first-team squad might lose some of its depth of quality in these new circumstances, but a talent pool such as City’s only being required to compete on a weekend-to-weekend basis represents a problem for those Premier League rivals being extended at home and abroad.
City’s Champions League relationship broken beyond repair
City’s fanbase have long nursed an uneasy relationship with the Champions League and the detente Guardiola clearly desires is now nothing other than a pipe dream.
Expect the booing of the competition anthem to reach a seething boiling point when Real Madrid visit the Etihad Stadium next month.
In a tournament where they have frequently flattered to deceive, City could do worse than to harness a siege mentality in what Guardiola can sell to his players as a now-or-never tilt for glory.
European heavyweights thumbing through their accounts
UEFA’s FFP system is safe for now, but the forthcoming CAS appeal could become a long and torrid process.
City are sure to present a thorough case, which could end up casting a light on the business operations of other major clubs.
All of European football’s major players will be watching on with unswerving interest and suspense.
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