London (AFP) – Pep Guardiola said Tuesday a weight had been lifted from Manchester City after their European ban was overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), but rival managers Jose Mourinho and Jurgen Klopp criticised the ruling.
The court on Monday lifted a two-year ban imposed earlier this year on the Premier League club by European football’s governing body UEFA over Financial Fair Play (FFP) breaches.
“I am incredibly happy for the decision. It shows all the people said about the club wasn’t true,” said Guardiola.
“People cannot understand how difficult it was for everyone as a club being under suspicion. Now we have proven it at the court, we go again on the pitch.”
Tottenham manager Mourinho said the court’s decision was a “disaster” and showed FFP, which limits club’s spending in line with their revenue, is now dead, while Liverpool boss Klopp said City’s reprieve was a bad day for football.
However, Guardiola feels it is City who are owed an apology.
“We should be apologised to because if we did something wrong we would accept the decision from UEFA, because we did something wrong,” he said at a press conference on Tuesday.
“We don’t expect Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal, Chelsea or Wolves to defend us but we have the right to defend ourselves when we believe what we have done is correct and three independent judges said this.”
City were punished by UEFA in February over “serious breaches” of FFP regulations but immediately contested the ban.
The club were accused of deliberately inflating the value of income from sponsors with links to the Abu Dhabi United Group, which is also owned by City owner Sheikh Mansour, to avoid falling foul of FFP rules between 2012 and 2016.
– ‘Bad decision for football’ –
UEFA recognised in a statement that many of the allegations fell outside the five-year time limit in its own regulations.
An initial fine of 30 million euros ($34 million, £27 million) imposed by UEFA was reduced to 10 million euros by CAS. However, the fine related only to City’s failure to cooperate with UEFA’s investigation rather than FFP breaches.
Mourinho said if they were guilty, City should be banned — but if they were innocent, they should not have to pay a penny.
“It’s a disgraceful decision, because if Man City is not guilty then to be punished with some millions is a disgrace. If you are not guilty, you are not punished. By the other way if you are guilty you should be banned so it is also a disgraceful decision. In any case the decision is a disaster,” said Mourinho.
On Wednesday, Tottenham face Newcastle, a club which could benefit from any relaxation of FFP rules should a Saudi-backed takeover be approved by the Premier League.
And Mourinho believes that in light of the City decision, any prospective new owners will not feel the need to comply with the regulations.
“I truly believe FFP is gone,” he added. “New owners will have this feeling the circus opened the door so let’s go and enjoy it.”
Klopp is hopeful City’s participation in next season’s Champions League will help his side’s chances of retaining the Premier League.
But the German believes any demise of FFP, which has helped bring down debt across the European game, would be bad for football.
“From a personal point of view, I’m happy Manchester City can play in next season’s Champions League, because if they have 12 games less, I don’t see any chance for any other teams in the Premier League,” said Klopp.
“I don’t wish anything bad on anyone but I don’t think it was a good day for football. Financial Fair Play is a good idea and it was there to protect teams and the competition, and clubs have to make sure the money they want to spend is from the right sources.”