Manchester City are doing all they can to stave off the headache of a possible ban from Champions League football.
Despite UEFA’s threat to boot them out of European competition for Financial Fair Play breaches, the Premier League champions have already launched an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in a bid to have any suspension overturned.
But what if that does not work? What could the consequences be for one of Europe’s most potent forces?
Here, Sportsmail take a look at the negatives, and even positives, of being kept away from the continent’s top table – should the worst-case scenario unfold.
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City could find themselves banned from Europe in 2020
Of the biggest concern to Manchester City and their fans will be how to keep hold of a world-class manager such as Pep Guardiola without the attraction of Champions League football – should it be taken away from them.
Currently, the Spaniard is contracted at the Etihad Stadium until 2021, but that hasn’t stopped stories already emerging of a possible departure.
Guardiola has never spent more than four seasons at any club as boss, and he will have reached that tally at City by the end of the current campaign.
City board members labelled reports this summer that he was set to take over from Massimiliano Allegri at Juventus as ‘ridiculous’, but sources in Italy and Spain have thrown doubt on his future in Manchester, saying it is ‘inevitable’ that he will have to ‘step back’ at some point soon given the energy he expends in the role.
As such, and given his history elsewhere, there is a chance that Guardiola may decide to walk away at the end of the coming season, ban or no ban.
The challenge for City will then be to attract someone of the same calibre but without the limelight of the Champions League.
Guardiola has never spent longer than four consecutive seasons in charge of any one club
Not being involved in Europe’s top competition is something that a lot of players find difficult to stomach.
It has cost teams – Spurs paid a heavy price with the likes of Luka Modric and Gareth Bale departing.
City’s David Silva has confirmed he will not renew his contract beyond 2020 – although this has nothing to do with any potential ban – and Sergio Aguero could be on his way. Both will need to be replaced.
Sergio Aguero has previously said that he plans to leave City when his contract is up in 2020
Other top players may also see it as a time to seek pastures new. Every current member of the City squad has won everything there is to win domestically.
The likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling would have no shortage of suitors across Europe willing to provide them with a shot at the one big prize that has eluded them to date.
While City’s financial clout means they have no obligation to sell those top stars, replacing those they are powerless to keep may be the bigger issue…
David Silva said this week that he also will not renew his contract after 10 years at the Etihad
City have been able to offer their top targets three things over the past few years: The guarantee of a substantial pay packet, a near-guarantee of silverware and the chance to play in Europe’s elite football competition year in, year out.
Take one of those off the table, and suddenly the prospect of joining doesn’t seem quite as attractive as it once was.
What could make things even more difficult for City is the prospect of a ban lasting more than one season.
As Christopher Flanagan, the managing editor of the International Sports Law Journal, points out: ‘The rules say that clubs can be punished by way of “disqualification from competitions in progress and/or exclusion from future competitions”.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin could see his governing body banning City from Europe
‘So, City could be disqualified from this seasons Champions League, or one or more future UEFA competitions should they qualify.
‘In general, a punishment needs to be proportionate to the offence committed and in equal treatment to others in similar circumstances.
‘The issue City face is that the particular allegations they face are quite different from the FFP matters on which UEFA (or the Court of Arbitration for Sport) has adjudicated before.’
With key players to replace next summer, such as Silva and Aguero, City could find themselves trumped by Europe’s other big hitters on their top targets, especially if they are unable to offer Champions League football for two seasons.
That could have a knock-on for their domestic performances, although it would take a drastic decline in standards for City to find themselves scrapping for a top-four spot given their current super-power status.
It is also believed that there is no great appetite within UEFA to keep the Premier League champions out of their flagship tournament for more than one season.
Without the lure of European football, City may find it tough to replace the likes of Aguero
UEFA’S FFP RULES
Any club wishing to enter UEFA competitions cannot report operating losses of more than €30m (£27m) over the course of a three-year period.
Any team found to be in breach of this face sanctions that can include fines, a restriction on the number of players named in a UEFA squad, and outright bans from European competitions.
A season outside of the Champions League can prove disastrous for many clubs on a financial level.
City would lose a sizeable chunk of income without European football. In the 2017-18 season they received more than £57m in prize money alone. The figure for the season just gone will have been more again.
That is a drop in the ocean for City’s owners, who under expulsion from the tournament would technically be able to put more of their own money into the club for that season. It is reportedly part of the reason why Milan are currently negotiating their own ban from the Europa League for the coming campaign.
However, City would have to be careful to avoid then breaking Premier League FFP rules.
These are more lenient that UEFA’s – allowing clubs to lose up to £100m over the course of three seasons under their ‘Profit and Sustainability rules’, although they also pose limits on how much a team can increase their wage budget by each campaign.
In any case, as Flanagan explains, City would have to think twice about a spending splurge if they were considering a return to European competition at the first possible opportunity.
‘There would not be a need to comply [with UEFA FFP obligations] if you weren’t going to compete in UEFA competitions,’ he says.
‘However, this would probably be quite short sighted, as FFP is assessed on a three-year rolling basis, meaning that you can’t simply drop out for one season, spend a significant amount, and then come back in the next year without worrying about the impact.
‘The longitudinal nature of FFP assessments means that in order to get a short-term boost outside of UEFA’s regulatory ambit, a club would need to commit to several seasons outside of European competition.’
City would need to be careful of Premier League FFP rules if they are to attempt to spend big
A break from it all
City’s fans have long had a love-hate relationship with the Champions League. They love to hate it.
The club has even been reprimanded by UEFA before for their supporters’ incessant booing of the official anthem during matches due to their previous FFP sanctions against the club back in 2014.
Add to that the heartbreak of City’s two most recent exits from the competition — a defeat over two legs by Liverpool before last season’s agonising loss to Tottenham — and supporters may be grateful for the break from another upsetting end.
A greater focus on domestic action may also allow them the chance to repeat the feats of last season and seek yet another domestic treble.
Manchester City supporters have often had a tetchy relationship with the Champions League