A one year ban is far less likely to cause the club’s top players to seek an exit from Manchester, a two year ban on the other hand could certainly turn some heads.
Manchester City will find out whether they will be eligible to participate in next season’s Champions League tournament when the Court of Arbitration for Sport delivers its verdict on the club’s appeal against a two-season ban today (Monday).
The stakes could not be higher for the English side, who have always strongly denied any wrongdoing over allegations they deliberately inflated the value of income from sponsors with links to the Abu Dhabi United Group, also owned by City owner Sheikh Mansour, to avoid falling foul of FFP regulations between 2012 and 2016.
In February, UEFA imposed a fine of 30 million euros on City as well as suspending them from European competitions for the next two seasons.
“Today we achieved qualification for the Champions League mathematically,” said coach Pep Guardiola on Saturday after a 5-0 rout of Brighton which cemented second-place in the Premier League.
“We deserve to be there because we won it on the pitch. Hopefully on Monday, UEFA can allow us to play as this team and these players deserve to.”
Since Sheikh Mansour’s takeover 12 years ago, City’s fortunes have been transformed from perennially living in the shadow of local rivals Manchester United to winning four Premier League titles in the past eight years among 11 major trophies.
Yet the prize that has eluded them is the one the Abu Dhabi project most desires – the Champions League.
No matter the outcome on Monday, City will have the chance to do so in August as they resume their Champions League campaign with a 2-1 lead over Real Madrid from the first leg of their last 16 tie.
That could be the last chance for some of City’s biggest names to win the Champions League for the club as a two-year ban would have severe consequences for the club´s finances.
Guardiola’s contract runs until the end of the 2020/21 season and the Catalan is unlikely to still be in charge in two years´ time.
Star players such as Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling are also unlikely to want to waste two of their peak years without Champions League football.
“Two years would be long. One year is something I might be able to cope with,” De Bruyne told Het Laatste Nieuws in June.
It would still take huge fees from rival clubs to tempt City to sell, but they may be forced to downsize to gain re-entry to the Champions League even after any ban is over.