MANCHESTER, England — They already have a huge “Three in a Row” celebratory banner hanging at the main entrance of the Etihad Stadium ahead of Manchester City’s latest coronation as Premier League champions. They didn’t waste any time updating the list of City’s achievements, but then again, it’s become an annual event when it comes to Pep Guardiola’s team.
– Dawson: Man City’s reserves humble Chelsea as title celebrations begin
Arsenal’s 1-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest on Saturday night confirmed City as champions without a ball being kicked against Chelsea on Sunday, so for the third time in three years – and the fifth time in six times – the Etihad is dressed for a title. party. There were celebratory scenes inside and outside the stadium, the smoke from the blue flames accompanying the City team bus as it arrived for the game, but far from this blue corner of Manchester, the City’s latest success was met with apathy and suspicion in equal measure.
Winners tend to dislike the end, especially serial winners, but this was different from the City team. No one knows what to feel.
– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga and more (US)
On the one hand, Guardiola’s team is probably the best the Premier League has ever seen. They beat opponents with ruthless consistency, playing a brand of football that made them unbeatable on their day. Just ask Real Madrid, the reigning European champions, who were destroyed 4-0 in the second leg of the Champions League semifinal on Wednesday.
But City are also under the cloud of more than 100 Premier League charges for alleged breaches of financial regulations. The club strongly denied all the charges and vowed to fight to overturn every one of them, but the charge sheet was so long and comprehensive that no one outside the Etihad was willing to toast Guardiola’s team. as the best.
The city was charged with 50 violations of providing inaccurate financial information, eight violations related to manager’s wages from 2009 to 2013, 12 violations related to player wages from 2010 to 2015, five violations related to UEFA financial regulations, 25 profit and sustainability breaches 30 violations in assisting the investigation of the Premier League, which began in March 2019. If found guilty, City faces sanctions from fines and point deductions up to expulsion from the league, making the stakes even higher.
Some teams or athletes stand out as the greatest of their generation, perhaps of all time. Usain Bolt collected gold medals as the best sprinter the world has ever seen and so did Tiger Woods on the golf course for over a decade. So did cyclist Lance Armstrong, but he was eventually stripped of his seven consecutive Tour de France victories after being exposed as one of the sport’s biggest cheats.
The city could be the Bolt or Woods of football, but until they clear their name — or else — of all 115 charges, the risk of being bracketed alongside Armstrong remains.
The problem for Guardiola, who has won 10 major trophies since arriving in 2016, and his players is that a resolution is unlikely to be imminent. It could take years to resolve the charges, meaning this team may not get the recognition it deserves — good or bad — until many of its key figures move on.
Within the City bubble, there is no doubt and the team’s successes are celebrated, with any outside scrutiny prompting outrage from supporters on social media. Journalists who covered the Premier League cases were accused of working with an agenda against the club, while Guardiola said his club had been “condemned” by their rivals. It is a good job, then, that the cases will be settled by lawyers rather than owners and managers of football clubs.
But while the investigation against the club is a matter of fact, there is also no question of jealousy from rival clubs and supporters of City’s success. They are now dominating like Manchester United in the 1990s and 2000s and Liverpool in the 1970s and 1980s. They play the best football in the world, they employ the best manager and their team is filled with superstars including Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne.
Against Chelsea, Guardiola made nine changes to the side that defeated Real: he rested almost all of his best players to the extent that he had £475 million of talent in the bank. If that is an example of the City with the biggest credit card in football, the presence of three local local men on the pitch — Phil Foden, Rico Lewis and Cole Palmer, who provided help for Julian’s victory Alvarez – a testament. at the club that also develops the best talent without the expense of transfer fees.
It’s also worth noting that while they won the Premier League for the third year in a row, City also did so at Under-21 and Under-18 level, explaining their dominance at each level. Money obviously helps, but City also hire the best coaches and administrators, and that depth of talent is as big a factor in their success as the quality of the players on the pitch.
So while their opponents may question how City have funded their period of dominance, they just need to find a way to beat them on and off the pitch where, for two years running, City topped the Deloitte Football Money League as a club. which has the largest commercial income in the game. They have a chance next season to become the first team in English football history to win four consecutive titles.
If they go on to win the FA Cup and Champions League this season – completing the treble – Guardiola’s side will secure their place in the history books while hoping an asterisk won’t apply to them in the years to come. But from a pure football perspective, this team is in a different league than the rest, and they seem to be on the mend.