Sam McGuire on the fallout from the Premier League's decision to charge Manchester City and who might replace Pep Guardiola if he walks out.
Earlier this week, the Premier League charged Manchester City with more than 100 breaches of its financial rules. The reigning champions are, of course, going to challenge these charges and posted a statement on the official club site.
It read: "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 the review of this matter by an independent commission, to impartially consider the comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence that exists in support of its position.
"As such, we look forward to this matter being put to rest once and for all."
This is likely going to be a long, drawn-out process but with these charges lingering over the club, it could have an impact on how they operate in the short term. Reports have suggested that if they fail to get these overturned, the punishments could range from a points deduction to relegation.
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The City project isn’t quite as desirable with these charges hanging over them. You don’t know whether you’ll be playing Champions League football or Championship football. Is Jude Bellingham, for example, going to risk moving there right now? According to reports, he is a top summer target (6/1 to join by the end of the summer window).
It also loses part of its appeal if Pep Guardiola departs. This could well be on the cards too (9/2 in the next manager to leave market). Previously, the former Bayern Munich boss said he would quit if it turned out the club had in any way cheated to get to where they are.
"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’.”
The Catalan-born coach may have recently extended his contract until 2025 but there are no guarantees he sees that out, not with all of this going on. If he does leave the Etihad, who replaces him? Will anyone of note make the move knowing the future is an uncertain one?
There are big names available. Luis Enrique is arguably the biggest right now. Spain may have crashed out of the World Cup prematurely but he had them playing the best football.
He also impressed while in charge at Barcelona, guiding them to a treble with a front three of Luis Suarez, Neymar and Lionel Messi. The former Real Madrid and Barcelona midfielder, capped 62 times by his country, knows how to handle egos. He would likely be among the favourites for the role if his one-time teammate did depart.
Mikel Arteta (best price 15/2) would be another candidate though it is unlikely he will leave his Arsenal project at this stage. A wildcard shout could be former Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino (currently 7/2 favourite in the Betfair market) who is still out of work having parted ways with Paris Saint-Germain at the end of last season.
His stock may have fallen a little but he’s tried and tested domestically. The Argentine tactician has had success in Europe - guiding Spurs to a Champions League final - and he has experience handling big-name players. He ticks a lot of boxes for the Citizens and has experience of being the face of a tricky project having been just that in France.
In the immediate future, can Guardiola and the players refocus their efforts on retaining the Premier League title? They are currently five points behind leaders Arsenal (15/8 to win the league) and suffered their fourth defeat of the season on Sunday, losing 1-0 to Spurs. They are also only six points clear of fifth-placed Spurs.
A bad run from here could see them miss out on Champions League football entirely (1/10 top four finish). Not only are City having to defend their name, but they are also having to defend their title as well as their place at the European top table.