by Paul Kennedy
PEP TALK: Can Pep Guardiola be talked into staying at Manchester City without European football for two seasons? AFP/VNA Photo
In 1992, English composer Tony Britten wrote a piece of music that lasts around three minutes and is loosely based on Zadok the Priest, which was written by George Frideric Handel in 1727.
From that short description you probably have no idea what song I’m talking about. Let me give you a clue.
If you have ever watched a football match in the Champions League, that is the tune that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand to attention.
It is synonymous with the greatest club competition in world football and will surely give you goose bumps whenever you hear it as you watch your team get ready for a match against the very best in Europe.
Manchester City fans will not be hearing it for at least two years after UEFA banned them from all European competitions for financial irregularities.
This season, Raheem Sterling and co. will have one final shot at lifting the Champions League trophy but after that, rather like Great Britain itself, Europe will be no more for at least two seasons.
At least? Yes, I think so. And here’s why.
The punishment may only be for two seasons, but I fear this could become a longer lasting problem for City, despite their vast fortunes.
Sterling is one of the best footballers in the world. So too are Sergio Aguero, Bernardo Silva, Kevin De Bruyne and just about every single Manchester City star.
Pep Guardiola is also an amazing coach, and, like the players he manages, must ply his trade against the best in the world, and that means playing in Europe.
What, if any action the Premier League will take, is still to be determined, but there is the outside possibility they could be punished even further, docked points and maybe even forced to drop down a few divisions.
Imagine that? City up against teams from League Two? That means their local derby would be against Salford City and not Manchester United.
That is an absolute worst case scenario but not beyond the realms of possibility, and if that does happen, will those multi-million footballers be happy to play in front of just a few thousand fans? Probably not.
Sterling’s agent was quoted this week as saying: “Raheem is solely focused on Manchester City and will not be distracted by any talk of transfers at the moment.”
In some quarters this has been interpreted as the player committing his future to City no matter what happens. I personally don’t see it like that otherwise why add those three words at the end? At the moment.
The Champions League is a real Catch 22 situation for City. If your team doesn’t qualify, the best players are unlikely to sign. If you don’t have the best players, then qualifying for the Champions League is no easy feat.
There is also talk about stripping City of their Premier League title from 2014. The following season, having finished 5th in the league, Everton missed out on a place in the Champions League and potentially around one hundred million pounds in revenue.
Could Everton start legal proceedings against City for money lost that season? Maybe.
With City planning to launch an appeal, and no doubt secure the services of the best lawyers money can buy, it is clear this story will go on and on.
But one thing that is for sure is without European football for Manchester City, the future certainly looks bleak to say the least.
Maybe instead of Handel’s Zadok the Priest composition, another song that would be more appropriate at the Etihad Stadium is a tune from the German composer’s dramatic oratorio Saul called The Dead March, which was in the past often played at funerals. VNS