The 3 Reasons Why UEFA Won’t Come Down That Hard on City for FFP

On Tuesday morning (15th April), City fans woke up to this article on the Telegraph website.

It was to report on the news that UEFA are meeting to discuss FFP and identify those clubs that are currently in breach of its conditions. Personally, I believe those conditions to be fundamentally flawed, but that’s for another post.

According to the report, City will be punished for posting big losses during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons. Initial rumours of a transfer embargo were quickly dismissed, whilst the other potential outcome of a ban from UEFA competitions was also speedily put down.

Many believe City will be hit with a hefty fine. Although the irony of fining a club for spending too much appears to be lost on UEFA, the Blues are just a year or two away from breaking even, have invested huge sums on the stadium and have built an academy that’s the envy of any sports team in the world; are our owners really that bad?

However, I honestly believe the punishment really won’t be as severe as some hacks would have you believe. And this is for three reasons:

  • Paris Saint-Germain
  • Platini (Laurent, not Michel)
  • Qatar

Paris Saint-Germain

UEFA don’t like what City have done. Platini (Michel, for the moment) has always took a disdain to English clubs like us and Chelsea coming along to upset the established European order.

But, PSG have made it awkward for both UEFA and their president. Whatever punishment they give us, they’ve got to give to them. They’ve spent huge sums on players like us, whilst playing in a league that doesn’t generate anywhere near the same amount of TV and prize money as the Premier League. In short, their books and balance sheets will probably make them wince more than ours.

If the French club hadn’t risen to prominence as they have done in the last couple of years, I reckon UEFA would throw the book at City. So why wouldn’t they want to touch the Parisiens? Well that’s for the other two reasons..

Platini (Laurent)

This is the son of Michel, the bastion of morality and fairness in European football. It just so happens, though, that Laurent works for Burrda Sports, a sporting brand owned by the Qatar Sports Investment (QSI) group. And who do they own? Paris Saint-Germain. You can read about it here.

This is a huge conflict of interest. Would Michel really sanction a big punishment that would affect the people who employ his son?

Then there’s the third reason…

Qatar

The country that PSG and their owners want to promote with their successes on field. It also happens to be the nation that FIFA infamously handed the 2022 World Cup to. Can you honestly see the world’s football governing body allowing its European subsidiary to unsettle Qatar and the people that controls its football interests in any way? Let’s face it, they’ve got bigger fish to fry where that’s concerned at the moment (slave labour, air conditioned stadiums, accusations of bribes for votes, I could go on).

In short, City have nothing to worry about. Sure, we might get a fine. But don’t expect it to be one that burns any major hole in our coffers. Our lawyers and board will make sure of that, whilst we can also thank PSG, Laurent Platini and Qatar for well and truly tying UEFA’s hands.

Is having a just few English players really worse than having a collection of bad ones?

Whilst posting a status on Facebook last week that was intended to merely have a cheap laugh at the expense of United fans in the wake of City’s 3-0 derby win at Old Trafford, something unintentionally ground my gears.

The post was a link to the article in the Manchester Evening News that showed how the Reds’ starting XI in the game cost more to assemble that the Blues’, the club that football fans with an embarrassingly narrow mind will have you believe are the only ones that spend serious money and are generally ruining football. But that’s for a different blog post entirely.

One of the United fans that took my bait threw a couple of points back at me. But it was one in particular that really struck a chord: the “well we’ve got more English players than you” argument.

It’d be a valid enough point if those English players were world beaters. Alas, they aren’t.

It would also carry some weight if all those English players were products of United’s academy. Again, they aren’t.

I found it difficult to find the right place to start with this, so I’ve tried breaking down it into a couple of areas.

Is bragging about how many English players you've got really important if they're woefully average and overpriced? Image thanks to http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/01919/jones2_1919963c.jpg

Is bragging about how many English players you’ve got really important if they’re woefully average and overpriced? Image thanks to http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/01919/jones2_1919963c.jpg

For a kick off, why is having lots of English players seen as the morally correct thing to do? Yes, nurturing local talent in academies should be something that all clubs should strive to achieve. In my personal opinion clubs should have a quota limiting the amount of players they bring in from abroad and into their academies.

But why play them in your first team for the sake of it? Take the likes Joe Hart or Wayne Rooney. Both City and United identified these players at Shrewsbury and Everton respectively as they could see that they had the potential to be great players in the future.

Rooney’s rise was quicker, whereas Hart’s stock rose during a loan spell at Birmingham. He established himself as City’s number one during his first game back up the M6.

Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Tom Cleverley- they’re woefully average. They play Premier League, Champions League and international football collectively week in, week out, and have done so for a number of years now. Have they developed into players that could get into the best sides in Europe? No, they haven’t.

So why play them? And more importantly, why use them to boast about their nationality? If United had five players of Rooney’s quality, then great; several players that are not only English but that are also world class players, capable of standing toe to toe with their Spanish and German counterparts.

Cleverley is perhaps the exception in the above trio. Not because of his quality (because he really is as average as the others), but because he came through United’s academy.

The midfielder showed potential in the youth teams and then on loan at Wigan, a bottom half Premier League side at the time. By all means bring him back and give him a go. But why keep playing him if he hasn’t really got any better? Why settle for second best? City tried it with Adam Johnson. He looked great at the start, didn’t develop into the player he perhaps should of done and was rightly sold. He’s now putting in average performances for struggling Sunderland.

Smalling and Jones have more to answer for because they were bought by United for heavy fees. The former cost £7 million from Fulham (£1 million more than Vincent Kompany cost City), whilst the latter cost an eye watering £16.5 million from Blackburn! Just let those numbers sink in for a minute.

For their considerable cost, are they the very best players in their position? No. Are they ever likely to be worth their fees? Very doubtful.

So why should clubs spend over the odds for average players purely on the basis of nationality? Wilfried Zaha, a player with zero top flight experience, cost United one million more than Jesus Navas cost City in summer of 2013, a player of the same position but with World Cup and European Championship winners medals in his cabinet.

If an English player is good enough, he’ll get noticed. And he will cost a fair whack, as Rooney did. But they’d be worth it; they’d be good players even if they weren’t English.

Pablo Zabaleta cost City £5 million. If City attempted to bid for someone like Kyle Walker from Spurs right now, how much we he cost? Would he be worth it? Absolutely not. But if you were more concerned of attempting to claim a nonsensical moral high ground based on his nationality…

But I’m not interested. I care most about my club and our success. Of course, as a proud Englishman, I’d love a successful English side, but not at the expense of City.

Giving young English players first team opportunities is important yes, but they need to have that level of natural ability that you simply cannot develop with minutes on the pitch. Otherwise what’s the point.

So the question isn’t why have City got just a handful of English players in their squad, but why has a club like United got a squad filled with very average ones?

Until players like Phil Jones and Chris Smalling cost a fraction of the likes of Vincent Kompany, arguably one of, if not, the best players in Europe in their position, no club should be questioned for having more foreigners in their team.

The problem isn’t clubs like City. The problem is a lack of talent at grassroots level. When it improves, City will have more English players in their team and United will have better English players in their team.

As long as the Reds’ languish in mid-table, their ‘English player’ moral high-ground is meaningless.

 

Eriksson Represents All European Officials and City Must Change To Conform With Them

“This guy is doing my bloody head in” said the old bloke sat behind me at the Etihad on Tuesday evening on at least five or six occasions.

He was of course referring to the man in the middle, Jonas Eriksson. And boss Manuel Pellegrini was clearly irked by him also, as one of the most timid managers in the game lost it in his post-match press conference and insisted that not only did Eriksson cost the Blues the match, but that he had planned to wrong an error he had made against Barcelona in 2012 from the first whistle to the last.

It always sounds like sour grapes when a team loses and fans, players and managers alike proceed to blame poor refereeing. However, there is no denying that Mr Eriksson and his officials had a bit of a mare. The game’s changing moment, Martin Demichelis’ foul on Lionel Messi, was undoubtedly a red card, but outside the box. Dani Alves should have been sent out for a string of bad tackles on City players. And Cesc Fabregas was wrongly ruled offside late on as he crossed to set up a Barca tap in.

Yet none of this is what infuriated the masses inside the stadium. Those are the kind of mistakes that are par for the course, sadly. No, it was Eriksson’s constant blowing up for even the most innocuous of challenges.

This isn’t a trait adopted by just this one referee- it’s indicative of officials across the continent.

Understandly Pellegrini was angry and upset after the game, but he was wrong to suggest that this is just a problem with Eriksson. Annoyingly Gary Neville hit the nail on the head once again when he tweeted this as the fallout began:

nev1nev2nev3

The former United full back was talking about his side’s trip to Istanbul in 1993 where they were defeated in one of the most hostile atmospheres there has ever been on the European stage. United were convinced that the referee that night, Kurt Röthlisberger, was “on the take,” such was his performance and apparent favouritism towards the Turks. Although the Swiss was banned for life four years later after being found guilty of bribery, subsequent investigations found nothing from this particular match to suggest that he had taken a back hander.

The point that Neville was making is that referees are completely different in the Champions League to those that we contend with in the Premier League every week. Every little touch, 50/50 or shoulder-to-shoulder challenge and the whistle will be blown.

This was the case on Tuesday with Eriksson. Watching Alvaro Negredo tussle in the air as the lone striker alongside Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano was like watching England play in the World Cup; physical challenges involving a strong striker being penalised, to English eyes, for no apparent reason.

Perhaps Neville is right and that City were displaying “European immaturity.” After all, this is only our third year as a Champions League outfit. What is clear though is that Eriksson represents all referees that City will come across in Europe. And if the Blues are to avoid the kind of evening that they’ve just endured, then they will have to adapt their game in European competition to accommodate this style, for better or worse.

Howard Webb, Phil Dowd, Mark Clattenburg- I will never say a bad word about you again… (I probably will).

Sometimes Football Fans Should Realise That Common Decency Is More Important Than A Game

There’s no doubting that the main talking point from City’s match at Newcastle last weekend was Cheick Tiote’s goal that never was. We’ll overlook spritely 52-year-old Alan Pardew’s ageism fuelled foul mouthed rant at Manuel Pellegrini just for now.

However, the match did trigger one of football’s most deplorable traits to rear its ugly head once again. That is the apparent lack of common decency by some football supporters.

It happened after Samir Nasri was struck down by a horrible challenge by the Magpies’ Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa. The midfielder was left rolling around the floor in agony, before leaving the field on a stretcher in tears, perhaps with the realisation that not only was his season over, but his involvement for his country at the World Cup in Brazil may now also be over, too.

Naturally, and even more so in a match that was played out in front of a passionate and hostile home crowd, there were the inevitable cries of play-acting when Nasri first went down. Let’s face it, footballers don’t help themselves at times, and it is hard to sometimes not jump to the ‘boy crying wolf’ conclusion. However, after it soon became apparent that the former Arsenal player was actually injured, the majority inside St James’ Park fell silent and, indeed, Nasri was applauded off the field by both sets of supporters.

Yet despite this, seeing a flurry of horrendously insensitive posts on social networking sites targeted at Nasri was truly disgusting. Ok, I understand that Nasri is an unpopular player by supporters of other clubs, I understand that having a dig at opposition players is all part and parcel of football, and I understand that tensions were running high during and after a match that had seen so much controversy.

But, tweeting “I hope Samir Nasri never walks again” (which is something that was re-tweeted onto my timeline) is sick.

Unfortunately, there were various others that I saw of a similar nature:

nasri1

nasri2

nasri3

nasri4

This is a side of football that should not be tolerated. It doesn’t matter if it’s a player that plays for your fiercest rivals or if he’s committed a misdemeanour earlier in the game, messages like those above about another human being have got nothing to do with football. Those messages are an issue of common decency.

We’ve seen this far too often in the past; chants about the Hillsborough and Munich Air disasters and songs mocking the death of Marc-Vivien Foe and the attack on the Togo national team bus at the African Cup of Nations. There was even that infamous incident outside of Anfield in 2006 when a group of Liverpool supporters attacked the ambulance taking the injured then-Manchester United player Alan Smith to hospital.

Let me stress at this juncture that I am not comparing the injury of a player to the death of 96 football fans, an entire plane of passengers or scores of people on a coach. The point I am trying to make is that all of these incidents have got nothing to do with football. What has rejoicing in the physical misfortune or the deaths of others got to do with a sport? And each time the ‘people’ that indulge in such common indecency do so, they hide behind the “it’s just football banter” excuse.

It’s worth pointing out that for every moron that post messages like the above or sings a horrendous chant, there are many more decent people around to condemn them.

Sadly, particularly in this era of social media, the minority still have a platform with which to spread their bile.

What squad could/would you assemble for less than £85 million?

After Real Madrid made an initial offer to Tottenham for Gareth Bale reported to be £85million, all manner of questions have been raised.

Is he really worth more than Cristiano Ronaldo? Is any human befitting of a price tag that eyewatering? And isn’t Spain meant to be skint, anyway?

Nevertheless, I personally believe with that money, Spurs could acquire several top players that would make them a stronger squad overall.

Consequently, that got me thinking about what squad I would assemble with that sizeable figure.

The below is what I’d go for, with a cool £3.48million left over in change. The squad has been populated with European-based players only and the fees that their current clubs paid for them when they joined. Of course, some are academy graduates and didn’t cost a penny, but you could argue that those players are proof that world class talent can be homegrown.

(Source: Wikipedia- transfer fees in Euros have been converted into Sterling)

squad1

(click image to enlarge)

Which players would you have in your squad if armed with a cheque book from the Bernabeu?