Premier League champion Manchester City was banned from the Champions League for two seasons by UEFA on Friday for "serious breaches" of spending rules and failing to cooperate with investigators in a seismic ruling against one of world football's wealthiest clubs.
The Abu Dhabi-owned team was also fined 30 million euros ($33 million) after an investigation that was sparked by leaked internal correspondence showing City overstated sponsorship revenue and masked the source of revenue from deals to tied to the Gulf nation in a bid to comply with Financial Fair Play regulations.
The punishment prevents City from playing in any European competition, including the Europa League, until the 2022-23 season. It could have a significant impact on the club's ability to sign players and retain manager Pep Guardiola, whose contract expires after next season.
The verdict was delivered on Friday to City following a hearing of UEFA's club financial control body on Jan. 22.
As soon as the news came out, supporters of rivals club started to speculate the future of Pep Guardiola and star players like Kevin de Bryune, Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling, at the club.
The internet was flooded with memes, and here are a few:
Manchester United and Arsenal after getting the news of Manchester City's UEFA ban pic.twitter.com/Ce3TkN0lc9 — F A L L B A C K G U Y (@YxngGustav) February 14, 2020
That's Pep gone then! Pep Guardiola: We'll win the Champions League soon! ***UEFA ban Manchester City from the Champions League for two years*** Pep Guardiola: pic.twitter.com/NEHghnM9xi — Rick O'Shea (@RickOShea321) February 14, 2020
Pep Gurdiola spotted leaving Manchester City after their 2 year UEFA Ban pic.twitter.com/LoqFRbdsN4 — Field Negro (@XMalcomme) February 14, 2020
All United and Liverpool fans hearing about the Man City UCL ban?????????? https://t.co/COenpkc9X8 — Ben Marshall (@BenMarshall___) February 14, 2020
PSG hearing about Manchester City's UEFA Champions League ban.#AccessBET pic.twitter.com/Zh5tN3CsqN — AccessBET (@AccessBET) February 14, 2020
The ban has no impact on the women's team participating in the Champions League.
City's men play Real Madrid in the Champions League round of 16 this month but would not get to defend the title if they lift the European Cup for the first time.
City could yet face additional punishment in England where its financial dealings are still being investigated by the Premier League.
City has been transformed into a leading team in world football since being bought in 2008 by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and a member of Abu Dhabi's royal family, winning the Premier League four times since 2012. City has endured a problematic title defense on the field this time, sitting second in the Premier League 22 points behind Liverpool.
The City Football Group, of which City is the key component, was valued at $4.8 billion in November after U.S. private equity firm Silver Lake bought a stake of around 10% for $500 million. Silver Lake became the second major partner in the group, with a Chinese consortium owning 12% of the equity. There are partner clubs in New York, Melbourne and Yokohama, among others.
City has never disputed the authenticity of the information contained in internal emails that were published by German media outlet Der Spiegel in November 2018 and shows alleged schemes by the club to allegedly cover up the true source of income in a bid to comply with FFP.(With inputs from AP)