Liverpool’s rivals Man City have been charged by the Premier League for over 100 alleged breaches of financial regulations.
If Jurgen Klopp thinks it was a rough couple of days for him at Liverpool, he might want to check in on Pep Guardiola.
The Reds’ season may have lurched further into the mire with their latest abject display, this time at Wolves on Saturday afternoon, but it’s Manchester City who have suddenly entered the week as the most embattled of the Premier League giants.
A failure to close the gap on an Arsenal side who were beaten at Everton on Saturday lunchtime was a lamentable feature of City’s weekend as they lost to Tottenham 1-0 in north London, but it was the bombshell statement from the Premier League on Monday morning that will have truly rattled Guardiola and everyone else connected to the Etihad.
The news that City have been charged with over 100 alleged breaches of financial regulations was the stunning revelation of an investigation that has taken four years. The Premier League announced on their website that City’s alleged misconduct is spread across nine seasons, dating back to 2009.
It’s alleged that City have overstated sponsorship, privately increased salaries of key figures and broken rules over how approaches to young players are allowed to be made. That City – a club with a much smaller global fanbase compared to many of their on-field rivals across domestic and European football – topped the 2022 Deloitte Money League with £619m ahead of the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester United and yes, Liverpool, was a news item that led to several eyebrows being raised inside football circles a few weeks ago.
And it didn’t take long for Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher to sardonically point towards those financial figures upon the news from the Premier League on Monday, tweeting: “This can’t be right, Man City bring in more commercial revenue than Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Man Utd & Liverpool”.
For City’s part, they say: “Manchester City is surprised by the issuing of these alleged breaches of the Premier League rules, particularly given the extensive engagement and vast amount of detailed materials that the EPL has been provided with.
“The club welcomes a review of this matter by an independent commission to impartially consider the comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence that exists in support of its position.”
What happens next will be interesting. City have vehemently denied any breaches of financial rules but the sheer volume of the allegations is startling. In February 2020, City were banned from the Champions League and fined £25million after they were found to have seriously misled UEFA and had broken financial fair play rules. This was later lifted by the court of arbitration for sport, who reduced the club’s fine to £9m.
The CAS stated at the time that “most of the alleged breaches were either not established or time-barred”. In this instance, there are no time restrictions on the allegations from the Premier League, which could yet prove vital to any potential punishments. A financial sanction for a club of City’s monstrous wealth will be futile, however.
Maybe, their biggest punishment will come in the form of an exit for their manager, Guardiola, who steadfastly admitted he would walk away if any impropriety was found on behalf of the club and their Abu Dhabi-based owners.
“Why did I defend the club and the people? It’s because I work with them,” Guardiola said back in May. “When they are accused of something I ask them: ‘Tell me about that.’
“They explain and I believe them. I said to them: ‘If you lie to me, the day after I am not here. I will be out and I will not be your friend any more. I put my faith in you because I believe you 100% from day one and I defend the club because of that.’
“When you put something here [sponsor] it’s overpaid, but other [clubs] the money comes from the USA but the money is correct, even if it’s higher. We have to deal with that, we have to fight with that. As always I am a big fan to support this organisation, no doubt.”
At a time when City appear to be struck by similar problems being experienced by Liverpool this season – if not quite as acute and obvious – it will be fascinating to see what Guardiola has to say about Monday’s developments.
Having gone full pelt for much of the last half-decade, racking up points tallies of 100, 98 and 93 in three of the past five full seasons, City appear as though they themselves are in need of rejuvenation to an extent, even if their drop-off has not been quite as marked as the one Klopp and his charges are feeling this term.
But having lost their fourth game of the season on Sunday in London, Guardiola’s men still trail league leaders Arsenal by five points with the Gunners also having the cushion of a game in hand. Perhaps this is the inevitable slump that comes after such a punishing rivalry with Liverpool that took the excellence of English football’s elite to new levels.
Evidently, however, there are greater problems at play within the club itself; ones that are far reaching and more troublesome than the those afflicting Liverpool just now. Uncertainty over FSG’s ownership is ongoing and question over the identity of those leading the much-needed recruitment drives are being asked but it suddenly appears to be a much more stable environment than the Etihad.
Liverpool issues, right now at least, appear mundane and treatable when you consider City’s current position.