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Dublin: 11°C Wednesday 14 April 2021

Explosive City allegations overshadow Manchester derby

A four-part Der Spiegel report has accused the club of knowingly deceiving Uefa and breaking Financial Fair Play rules.

Manchester City players celebrate after scoring in the Champions League during the week.
Manchester City players celebrate after scoring in the Champions League during the week.
Image: Rui Vieira

THIS SUNDAY, Manchester City face arguably their biggest mach of the season so far, and yet it is matters off the field that have been the primary focus when it comes to the Etihad outfit in recent days.

An explosive four-part Der Spiegel report has accused the club of knowingly deceiving Uefa and breaking financial fair play rules.

Recounting all of City’s alleged improprieties is not the purpose of this article, but you can read about in Der Spiegel here, while the BBC’s Dan Roan has an excellent summary here.   

Similarly intriguing to the reports themselves are how the football world reacts to them.

City have castigated Der Spiegel, claiming their reporting is part of an “organised attempt” to smear the club, yet the the English side have yet to deny the allegations made.

Pep Guardiola took a similar line to his employers, appearing to play down the significance of Der Spiegel’s reporting.

“If they (the critics) want to undermine what we do, then no problem,” he told reporters.

“We live our lives and what we achieve, it will remain in our hearts the rest of our lives.

“Like I said, I trust the people at the club and okay if there’s something wrong we’ll be punished.

“So whatever Fifa or Uefa say we were wrong, we will have to accept it. But I hear what my club said to me and I trust a lot of them.”

Man United boss Jose Mourinho, meanwhile, was keeping his cards close to his chest. When asked about the claims made in relation to City, he said the following: “Of course, there is a quality of the work, quality of the organisation, and I think that is untouchable, but what is behind I cannot say.”

If City turn out to be guilty as Der Spiegel’s report suggests, despite the seriousness of the allegations, many critics will suspect the club are unlikely to be unduly affected.

Whether football’s hierarchy have both the means and the desire to seriously punish City is debatable.

In 2014, when the club were initially found to have breached Financial Fair Play rules, they received a fine of what ultimately amounted to £17 million — less than half of what they paid for Kyle Walker and relative pocket money for chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak and owner Sheikh Mansour.

It was a weak punishment for such a serious breach and there is no evidence to suggest there is any real appetite to severely punish City for their latest alleged indiscretions.

Uefa would likely face a substantial legal challenge from a club with infinite resources, should they, for example, opt to kick City out of Europe.

Moreover, football is a business, first and foremost, and ejecting one of the favourites from the Champions League might be perceived as self-defeating in a commercial sense by the powers that be.

And if those at the top of the sport are unlikely to be too upset by the whole scenario, the same can surely be said of City’s players. Certainly, there were no signs of low morale during their comprehensive Champions League 6-0 victory over Shakhtar Donetsk during the week.

This weekend, they face a United side who have disappointed at times this season but received a significant morale boost in the form of a midweek Champions League win against Juventus in Turin. That result has led to a renewed sense of optimism at Old Trafford and the upcoming game looks set to be an intriguing affair.

It is a sad sign of how in football, the sport’s commercial power invariably trumps ethical concerns, but it would be naive to expect that many home fans inside a packed Etihad Stadium on Sunday will be overly worried about the alleged conduct of those who run their beloved club.

Premier League fixtures (all matches kick-off at 3pm unless stated otherwise)


Cardiff City v Brighton (12.30)
Huddersfield v West Ham
Leicester City v Burnley
Newcastle v Bournemouth
Southampton v Watford
Crystal Palace (17.30)


Liverpool v Fulham (12.00)
Chelsea v Everton (14.15)
Arsenal v Wolves (16.30)
Man City v Man United (16.30)

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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