After the FA Cup was raised aloft by Manchester City’s players, the Wembley Stadium pyrotechnics didn’t cast a cloud over the team’s unprecedented sweep of English soccer’s men’s trophies.
The only shadow came from the investigations by soccer authorities into leaked documents that allegedly show the game’s costliest squad was assembled thanks to mechanisms employed to try to circumvent spending regulations.
A 6-0 rout of Watford on Saturday, delivered by players who cost more than $200 million in transfer fees, ensured the FA Cup joined the Premier League trophy, League Cup and Community Shield already in City’s possession.
The only piece of silverware missing is from the competition City could be banned from next season: the Champions League.
City arrived at Wembley reeling from UEFA investigators last week sending the governing body’s judges a file into how the Abu Dhabi-owned club sought to allegedly dupe the governing body to comply with Financial Fair Play.
And the team left the national stadium with manager Pep Guardiola seething to face questions about the cloud over City’s feat.
“We are not guilty (until) proven,” Guardiola said. “Would I say this club makes a step forward from the big investment from Sheikh Mansour? Definitely. Can you do that without top players? No way. That money helps to buy the incredible players we have? Yes.
“After that we wait. If we are punished, we will accept it. But I listen to my chairman and my CEO, they give me the arguments for why they are under investigation and I trust them. When they tell me we were fair, we did it absolutely following the rules, I’m sorry, I believe them. If the opponents and contenders believe that’s it’s just the money … it is OK they will be a problem.”
Guardiola is the only City figure publicly responding to questions about the FFP investigation, despite not being a director. Leaving Wembley, City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak only gave a thumb’s up when asked about the club’s potential Champions League ban.
Leaks of internal correspondence published by German outlet Der Spiegel last year showed how City used companies linked to the Abu Dhabi ownership to boost revenue in an attempt to curb losses and comply with UEFA regulations. City hasn’t disputed the authenticity of the documents.
The Football Leaks group also published details showing how Roberto Mancini, who managed City from 2009 to 2013, received more pay from a team Sheikh Mansour owns in Abu Dhabi to work as a consultant than from the Manchester club.
Mancini was the last City manager to win the FA Cup in 2012. City hasn’t responded to questions sent by The Associated Press in November asking if Guardiola had any similar arrangements to Mancini, and the manager was infuriated to be asked Saturday if he received any payments from Abu Dhabi.
“Do you know the question you are asking me — if I receive money from another situation today?” Guardiola said. “Do you think I deserve to make this kind of question … the day I won the treble, if I received money from another situations?”
Guardiola is yet to provide an answer. City did not respond to a follow-up text message on the issue.
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