These are not times to take – serious issues personally, but I still suspect that, in his quieter moments, Pep Guardiola will think he’s cursed.
City are overwhelming favourites to win the Champions League… but will the competition now be completed?
I fear not, if the big leagues in Europe are ever going to complete their seasons before the next one kicks off.
If that’s the case, then there’s a real chance now Pep will go at least a decade without even getting to the final of the competition he looked set to make his own in 2011 when he took Barcelona to the trophy for the second time in three years.
It’s a bit mad, isn’t it, that he hasn’t been to the final since then?
When you think in that time he’s managed Barca, Bayern Munich and Manchester City, who arguably were the best teams in the world in his time with those clubs, it doesn’t add up.
I’m not enough of a legal expert – and I’m not sure watching LA Law on TV when I was a kid counts! – to wade into the rights and wrongs of UEFA’s two-year ban handed out to Manchester City recently.
But I do know the coronavirus crisis, which has engulfed the world and makes sporting matters seem so trivial, can have longer consequences for City than even threatening the Champions League being completed this season.
Their appeal over the ban cannot be heard at the moment because the body that will hear it, the Court of Arbitration in Sport, is not sitting – for obvious reasons.
With eight of the most powerful Premier League clubs arguing that City should not be allowed into European competition while any appeal is in progress, that could easily mean Pep doesn’t get to manage a Champions League team next season.
Unless he quits City.
I’m not suggesting for a second he will and I think he’s gone on record as saying he’ll stay, but, in his quieter moments, I’m sure the situation will have given him plenty of food for thought.
He’s there to win trophies and, in particular, I am absolutely sure he went there to win the Champions League for the club’s owners. And himself. In fact, he wants it so badly that it could have -become an obsession.
If they void the competition this year and City remain banned for two more years, then it’s 2023 before he can win it with them.
And that’s before the full implications of UEFA’s ban are felt. Again, my expertise extends only to watching Rumpole of the Bailey, but there are real financial implications from the ban.
Being hit with big fines is tough and, in the longer term, I’ve seen people suggest it could cost hundreds of millions, with no European competition.
How will that affect the ability to keep and recruit players? Will the squad be weakened?
All that will have gone through Pep’s head because he’s only human like the rest of us – even if he sometimes looks like a super-computer!
This was the season for City to win it. With Liverpool out and the advantage they hold over Real Madrid, they are, far and away, the strongest side left in it.
So he’ll be praying the Champions League resumes.
If it doesn’t, then I’m not sure he will win it with City. And what’s left? Well, no doubt he can try to win all the domestic -trophies. Again. And prove himself to be a legend of the game here in England… if he’s not already.
Even that, though, may be impacted by the fallout of the ban. And then there’s the rivalry with Liverpool, too, where they are clearly behind at the moment.
Far more serious is the global catastrophe that is unfolding before our eyes, like something we’ve only ever seen -before in a movie. And that is a very real issue now, far greater than any sporting matters.
Yet, if Liverpool feel cursed that this has happened just as they were about to win their first title in 30 years, then Pep could be forgiven for thinking something similar.
I hope he doesn’t leave, I hope he goes on to cement his position as a legend within English football.
But I wonder, if the ban is upheld, what his reaction will be.