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Man City were never really champions

OPINION: After losing several players who got offers to double their money in the north, Arsenal fans won’t have much sympathy over UEFA’s Financial Fair Play ruling

20 February, 2020 — By Richard Osley

Former Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor. Photo: Roger Gorączniak

LAWYER fees are always so very expensive, so isn’t it lucky that Manchester City aren’t short of a few bob and should just about scrape together the money they’ll need in order to challenge UEFA’s ruling?

The club, as you will have seen and to the dismay of nobody, has been found to have broken Financial Fair Play rules and banned from European competitions for two years. It would be ironic but somehow predictable, if they were now able to wheedle themselves out of the punishment by… throwing millions or billions at a crack legal appeal.

It’s hard to feel much sympathy for City, whose rise in the past decade should have been a charming story of the little guy neighbours of United defeating the odds to turn the city’s rivalry on its head.

Instead, it was the story of “success” hinged solely on how much they could spend. A bit like Chelsea before them, just even wilder; one wild spending spree in the transfer market after another.

Among the chief victims in this mania was Arsenal, who were always on the brink of something special but then found themselves prudently counting every pound to “pay for the new stadium”.

Arsenal spent heavily on building the Emirates Stadium

Truth be told, it always seemed Arsenal made more of a meal about “paying for the new stadium” than anybody else – it was an excuse for all seasons – but the club’s slip from the summit can be traced to its inability to compete financially with a team who seemed to have a bottomless pit of money.

Suddenly, players who might have constructed a winning story in north London with Arsene Wenger were heading north with offers to double their money.

In retrospect, losing the ultimately error-prone Emmanuel Adebayor, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy may not seem like the worst blows – Barcelona always got the better players, Thierry, Cesc… Alex Song – but it meant Wenger could never form another settled team.

There was always one of his star players dreaming of the pounds they might one day collect at the Etihad.

So let’s just go with what Wenger himself said this week, now working as FIFA’s chief of development.

“My belief is that sport is about trying to win by respecting the rules,” he said. “We celebrate the best in every sport – but only if we know the winners respect the rules. If there is no respect then it’s not real sport.”

He’s right. It has been so synthetic with Manchester City, that their success was never really sport.

They were never really champions.

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