John Aldridge: 'Manchester City must get punished if they’ve breached financial rules'
Read John Aldridge every week in the Herald
It looks like Manchester City are finally about to get punished for their blatant financial outlay, but their domestic rivals will not be compensated for the pollution they have created in the English game.
City won the Premier League title for a second successive season on Sunday and no-one can deny that they are a fantastic team, led by a brilliant manager in Pep Guardiola who has taken full advantage of everything coming his way since he arrived at the club three years ago.
However, City’s owners have achieved their domination of the English game by spending their way to the top, and now there are allegations that they have flouted Financial Fair Play rules - a move which may be finally about to bite them.
UEFA are reported to be preparing to throw them out of the Champions League for a season.
One of the allegations in UEFA’s probe is that City have been inflating the sponsorship deals they have signed with companies under control of the club’s owners for years.
If this is true, they should be punished.
It remains to be seen whether UEFA will follow through on their threat to kick them out of the Champions League, but at least they appear to be considering this option and giving City a punishment that would really hurt them.
City simply have to win Europe’s biggest competition to be taken seriously as a big club, but the reality is they have not even come close to reaching a Champions League final despite spending £1billion to build their dream team over the last decade.
Yet while European success continues to elude them, City are developing a vice-like grip over the English game and that should be a concern for Premier League chiefs.
City will become the first team in history to win a domestic treble when they beat Watford in Saturday’s FA Cup final and I see them repeating this level success time and again over the next few years.
Guardiola has had the luxury of making a few disastrous signings and blowing £100m and brushing it off as if he had dropped a penny, but no other club in the Premier League can just spend and spend again if they make transfer mistakes on that scale.
Every other Premier League club (aside from Chelsea) buys players with the cash they generate through their own business, but City have a different business model and this is why I can’t see them being beaten in the title race for a long time to come.
Liverpool did incredibly well to hang on to their coat tails and give them a real scare in the title race that ended in predictable fashion on Sunday, but City are so far ahead of most teams in England that they can stroll to victories most weeks without breaking sweat.
They won 14 games in succession to win the title by a point and at least 10 of those games came against opponents who knew they were beaten before a ball had been kicked.
It will be incredibly tough for Liverpool to collect 97 points against next season and as we have seen, even that ridiculous points total is not enough to stop City winning the league.
If City are thrown out of next season’s Champions League, I would expect them to run away with the Premier League title and have it all-but wrapped up by February, as they did last season.
Everyone should be grateful to Liverpool for keeping the title race interesting because third-placed Chelsea were 26 points behind City and it would not surprise me if they reached the 100-point mark again next season after they spend another £150m in the transfer market this summer.
What happens if Manchester City win the domestic treble in England for the next five years? Will anyone still be interested in watching the Premier League aside from their relatively modest fanbase?
Of course, there is a way to stop them in their tracks and it means those in charge of English football following UEFA’s lead and by giving them suitable punishment for breaking the rules of the game.
Fining a football club that has unlimited funds is pointless, but threatening them with points deductions would certainly focus their mind and maybe the only way to encourage them to change their ways.