Dubai: With Manchester City exonerated of any wrongdoing by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), and free to compete in the Champions League next season, they can put the whole, long-drawn-out Uefa saga behind them and get concentrate on their pursuit of more glory on the pitch.
Pep Guardiola’s side were cleared of all accusations of breaking Uefa’s Financial Fair Play rules on appeal to CAS on Monday, and their two-year European ban has been thrown out.
With the affair now laid to rest, Guardiola can turn his attention to the transfer window to recruit the men he needs to achieve the long-held dream of City’s owners in Abu Dhabi — lifting the Champions League trophy.
While City are still in the mix for this season’s competition — they hold a 2-1 advantage over Real Madrid ahead of their last-16 second leg at the Etihad on August 7 — Guardiola will be busy working behind the scenes to bring in the players he has been longing for to fill the gaps left by Captain Marvel Vincent Kompany, the departing playmaker David Silva and ageing striker Sergio Aguero.
These are three City legends who will be tough to replace, but a fully fit back-line is fairly strong.
Where the money needs to be spent is on a playmaker and striker. One possible two-in-one answer could be in a certain Barcelona star — Lionel Messi — who has flirted with a move to City and has said he will not renew his current contract at Camp Nou. The only stumbling block could be his age, as Guardiola is not known for bringing in veteran players, and prefers to sign up younger men to mould into his team.
With Aguero again sidelined with a long-term injury in his creaking legs, a proven hit man is an urgent requirement to complement Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling and the blossoming Phil Foden up front.
Jadon Sancho — once on City’s books as a youngster — is thriving in the Bundesliga, and will only be prised away from Borussia Dortmund for a steep price. Closer to home, guys such as Wolves’ Raul Jimenez could be a cheaper option with a proven Premier League track record for goals.
With Champions League football secured, City no longer have to fear the loss in revenue from continental competition, and they can rest easy that top stars such as Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne will be staying put. They have the added attraction of offering potential players the chance to perform on the biggest stage. Either — or both — Chelsea and Manchester United will miss out on Champions League football after this ruling, meaning City could swipe their transfer targets such as Dortmund’s Sancho and Kai Havertz from Bayer Leverkusen.
Whomever comes in to bolster the squad, City will certainly be pushing for titles at home and abroad — bigger, better and stronger.