Obsess over City’s 115 charges, not Jack Grealish’s antics
City's treble-sealing Champions League victory needs to be remembered for what it is- the culmination of 15 years worth of financial doping.
As Manchester City stuttered to a Champions League final victory in Istanbul which saw them match their local rival's once unprecedented treble achievement, BT Sport commentator Darren Fletcher eulogized the back-to-back Premier League champions with the line “The greatest story in club history has an ending, and what a final chapter”.
Likewise, former Manchester City and England centre back Joleon Lescott exalted Pep Guardiola’s side’s season, decreeing “It’s amazing, inspirational. I can’t think of any other words that can be used to describe this moment”.
However, it’s not amazing, it’s not inspirational, and it most certainly is not the greatest story in the history of the club game. But rather, it serves as a looming reminder of what the beautiful game has become, a geopolitical toy used to deflect attention and garner influence.
The financial transgressions of a nation-backed juggernaut:
To provide context, City were in fact banned from this very competition for two seasons back in 2020, after UEFA found them guilty of “serious breaches” of FFP rules and for failing to co-operate with their investigation.
Despite the hierarchy at City opting to bury their heads in the sand by following the route of non-compliance, it was revealed that they had overstated sponsorship revenue and break-even information in accounts over a four-year period between 2012-2016.
Ultimately the ban was dropped as the City Groups £5,000 an hour legal team tied UEFA up in a twist of legal knots, and the club continued on what was seemingly its preordained path to continental dominance.
Furthermore, last February, the Emirati-backed club were hit with a staggering 115 financial charges by the Premier League, a monumental list which included failure to provide accurate financial information, failing to comply with UEFA FFP regulations, and failing to follow league rules on profit and sustainability.
Unfortunately though, these very facts appear to have been forgotten by the world’s media in the wake of City’s crowning victory to their treble-winning season.
Instead, it has been the antics of their affable wide forward Jack Grealish which have made international headlines and spread like wildfire across social media.
The icing on the cake to City's sportswashing project:
Clips of the England international stumbling wearily off City’s jet following a celebratory night in Ibiza or interrupting teammate Kevin De Bruyne’s post-match interviews in a jocular fashion have seen the issue of City’s financial transgressions slip almost completely out of the sporting zeitgeist.
Appearing on the front of the Sun ‘newspaper’ under the incredulously witty headline ‘Having Treble Jack?’ as the England international is propped up by compatriot Kyle Walker leaving an Ibiza hotel, Grealish has succeeded in capturing the attention of the sporting media.
Having struggled to justify his lofty £100 million price tag on the pitch since his move from Aston Villa two summers ago, perhaps it is off it in instances such as this where City are finally recouping some value for money.
In playing the role of the relatable footballing superstar who appears to be “one of the lads”, Grealish has deflected virtually any and all attention away from his club’s scrupulous financial deviancy, and instead fostered what is seemingly an indelible shift in the way in which this oil-backed institution is viewed.
The audacity of the British media labelling this patently tainted procurement of footballing glory as the “greatest story in club history” is made all the more nauseating by the fact that it was not even the most inspiring story on the pitch at Istanbul’s Ataturk Stadium on Saturday night.
That statement should have instead been bestowed upon Inter Milan’s captain on the night, Francesco Acerbi, who overcame a testicular cancer diagnosis at just 25 years of age, and went on to become a European Championship winner with his national side.
Sadly though, as time moves on, it appears that City’s ill-gotten gains will drift into obsolescence. Instead as the decades advance, this era of blue moon dominance will be worryingly remembered not as the start of football’s impending downfall, but rather for the ebullient nature of the likes of Grealish.
What happens next for European football?:
What’s next for this Manchester City side is yet another perturbing contemplation. Having sauntered in a procession-like manner to five of the last six Premier League titles, and coming to the realization that the likes of Erling Haaland and Phil Foden are still so young, there is every possibility that England’s top-flight continues its metamorphosis into an uninspiring Bundesliga-esque competition.
On a continental level, one could worry too that we are about to embark on an era of oil-backed supremacy for Guardiola’s men. The traditional Spanish kingpins in Barca and Real are desperately trying to keep their heads above water financially, whilst Italian giants such as the Milan clubs and Juventus are already feeding off the scraps of players chewed up by the Premier League.
Whatever the outcome though, City’s success should always be caveated to the highest possible degree by constant reminders of how they’ve scaled the European footballing ladder.
The journey has not been akin to genuine footballing fairy tales such as Luton Town hauling themselves from the fifth tier to the Premier League in just nine years, or Brighton’s dramatic resurgence from the brink of disbandment all the way to European football.
City could and likely will go on to complete more feats of footballing perfection, but the fact that it has been done through systemic and long-standing financial doping should be the first utterance whenever they do.
Look past the beguiling escapades of Jack Grealish. It’s the 115 charges that really matter.
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