Pep Guardiola says every top-ten club that tried to get involved in Manchester City’s hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) should be delighted with the decision.
Eight clubs – so all bar the Blues themselves and Sheffield United – made a joint application to CAS before a date had been set asking that City be unable to delay the process in order to play in the Champions League next season. City hadn’t asked to do it, and the letter had negligible legal value, but such a statement showed the strength with which City’s rivals were determined not to allow them to bend the rules.
City had always said that they wanted the appeal to be heard as soon as possible, and the delay to the football season has allowed the case to go ahead even earlier than expected. The verdict came on Monday – well before the end of the Premier League season and the Champions League draw for next year – with the Blues cleared to compete after the main charge against them was dismissed.
Speaking for the first time since the decision, Guardiola made clear how irked he had been that so many clubs had been going behind their back. He reserved extra surprise that champions Liverpool were involved, perhaps because their Champions League place was already secure, and went on to say that every club that signed the application to CAS must be happy to have the speedy resolution that they called for.
“All of these clubs: Arsenal, Chelsea, Leicester, Wolves, Man Utd, Tottenham, Liverpool – Liverpool! – and Burnley, I understand they want the fifth positions for the Champions League.
“I can understand. What they ask is that they didn’t want us to delay the process for the next season [so that we] ‘could’ play in the Champions League.
“We were so clear. We said yeah we are completely with you eight clubs. We want to make the resolution from CAS as soon as possible to clarify this. Because I said all the time if we did something wrong and we needed to be banned we will be banned and we will accept it. So I was completely with these eight clubs to go to CAS and make their resolution.
“The resolution is there so that’s why they must be happy. They must be happy because we didn’t break the rules. We played the same rules as all the clubs in the Premier League and Uefa so that’s why. So next time before (you) make phone calls, they can make a call to our chairman or CEO and say guys all these clubs we are going to do it all together to try to you know get this kind of resolution.
“We were on the same page so unfortunately just [the top] four teams can play in the CL next season, not the fifth.”
The decision at CAS has intensified the race for Champions League qualifications, with every side now aware that fifth place will not be good enough to earn a place in next season’s competition.