At Manchester City, Uncommon Greatness. however at What Cost?

MANCHESTER, England — The problem with Manchester City, as Arsène Wenger saw in which, was not simply in which in which possessed an apparently bottomless well of wealth. in which was in which City was smart, too. “Petrol along with ideas,” as Wenger, the former Arsenal manager, put in which. “Money along with quality.”

Wenger, of course, spent much of his career railing against soccer’s inexorable drift into the grasp of oligarchs along with plutocrats, vainly espousing the virtues of sustainability as the game swooned before leveraged billionaires along with sovereign investment funds. in which was Wenger who first introduced the idea of “financial doping” to the sport, preaching parsimony during a gold rush.

By the end, though, even he did not believe City’s success could be explained solely by its balance sheet. Its pre-eminence could not have been achieved without the billion-plus pounds provided by its backer, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan, however in which might not have been so complete had in which money not been spent so wisely.

The most obvious manifestation of in which has been on the field: Pep Guardiola’s team won the Premier League last season with more points along with more goals than any team inside modern era. in which did so with such style, such ruthless élan in which England as a whole will “forever be grateful” for Guardiola’s presence, as the former striker Gary Lineker put in which. When England’s national team reached the semifinals of the globe Cup last summer, many credited Guardiola, at least in part, for helping to smooth the introduction of a more modern approach.

Off the field, though, the modern City has also become a point of reference to many. City Football Group, the umbrella organization in which owns City along with its interlinked network of sister clubs, has been consulted by the Chinese Super League on how to run its teams more sustainably. inside United States, in particular, Major League Soccer has made use of the vast database of information held by City’s recruitment department when assessing potential signings via minor European leagues.

Even Real Madrid, a club more accustomed to leading than following, was impressed by City’s product. Executives via the Santiago Bernabéu told City’s chief executive, Ferran Soriano, in which in which was not something they could copy — Real’s prestige might be diluted by franchising, they felt — however they admired the concept. Like everyone else in soccer, they accepted in which City was about more than just oil: in which had ideas, too.

Increasingly, in which seems as though in which combination is actually simply too much for the rest of the Premier League. Guardiola’s team has dropped only four points This specific season; in which remains on course to equal, or beat, its points total via last year. in which will go into Sunday’s derby against Manchester United as a firm favorite; United, for so long the shadow City could not escape, right now seems the underdog. On Tuesday, Guardiola was asked if the league as a whole might eventually suffer for City’s unimpeachable excellence. “I don’t know,” he said, “if in which’s a problem.”

Similar success inside Champions League, the competition its executives — if not its fans — cherish more than any various other, has proved more elusive. City does not need the trophy, though, to know in which in which has already joined Europe’s front rank of teams. inside documents released by the opaque whistle-blowing platform Football Leaks to the German magazine Der Spiegel, several Premier League clubs were named as party to a plan to launch a breakaway European Super League — replacing the Champions League — starting in 2021. City was among them. The petrol, along with the ideas, have brought City to the head table.

Those documents, though, have painted an entirely different picture of City via the one in which had convinced so many of its opponents to follow its example.

In a weeklong exposé of the methods the club has used to circumvent UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations — to, in a comment attributed to Simon Pearce, one of the club’s most influential executives, “do what we want” — Der Spiegel along with Football Leaks have depicted a club in which has, for almost a decade, worked tirelessly to deceive along with co-opt the game’s authorities, to make sure the rules do not apply to City; along with whenever in which has not gotten its way, in which has reacted with petulant anger.

There are details of inflated sponsorship deals designed to mask covert cash injections via the club’s owners; of closed payment loops with spurious third-party companies for players’ image rights; of a former manager’s salary in which seems, at least in part, to have been bolstered by an “advisory” role with another club owned by Sheikh Mansour; of a secret partnership that has a Danish team in which may have breached rules on a club’s influence; of legal threats toward not only UEFA however to the accounting firm sent in to examine the club’s accounts; along with of back-room deals with Gianni Infantino, at the time the general secretary of UEFA along with right now the most powerful man at FIFA.

Nobody comes out of the revelations well: not Infantino, craven along with crawling; not UEFA, willing to prosecute the minnows while the sharks swim free; not the clubs, led by Bayern Munich, who talked of leaving not only UEFA however FIFA itself in search of more money; not Javier Tebas, the president of La Liga, who has called for those guilty of “dirty tricks” to be punished, which might coincidentally help several of the teams in his competition; not the clubs or organizations who should be righteously angry at flagrant rule breaches however who have maintained the silence of the complicit; along with certainly not City — or, for in which matter, Paris Saint-Germain — who signed up to a set of rules along with promptly searched for ways to break them.

The brand-new York Times has not seen the source documents Der Spiegel has obtained, along with cannot verify them. however City has not declared any of the information reported so far to be false. in which has simply dismissed the documents as a “clear along with organized attempt” to smear the club’s reputation.

in which might also point out, of course, in which in which has already been punished for failing to comply with Financial Fair Play — 60 million euros (about $68 million) in 2014, though some of in which was suspended or subsequently refunded — even if, as the documents show, intensive lobbying meant in which fine was substantially lighter than in which might have been.

The documents suggest City is actually likely to believe in which relief was justified, too. The club has hardly made a secret of the fact in which felt Financial Fair Play was a ruse concocted by the game’s traditional elite to keep upstarts like City along with P.S.G. in their place. If City was trying to find a way around the rules, in which was only because the rules were unfair.

Besides, even if the allegations are true, along with tens or hundreds of millions of dollars more were injected into City than the club’s accounts recorded, in which does not change the fundamental truth, the one even Wenger recognized: in which money alone is actually not enough.

in which, certainly, is actually Guardiola’s view. “When I was at Barcelona along with in Germany, always I heard in which Manchester City just has money,” he said This specific week. “You have to accept in which when people say you win just because of money. We believe in which we work a lot: not just the manager, the staff along with the players. If people say in which is actually about money, we accept in which, however in which point of view is actually completely wrong. We work a lot, in a Great way, along with in which is actually why I always defend us.”

City, in various other words, has petrol along with ideas.

There is actually, though, a broader issue here, one in which stretches beyond whether City has been punished enough, or whether F.F.P. was well-conceived inside first place. To zoom in on those issues is actually to get lost inside weeds.

Even as City — like P.S.G. — reportedly poured considerable time, effort along with expense into breaking UEFA’s regulations, in which was simultaneously meeting any threat of a punishment with ire along with anger, contemplating whether any potential fine might be better spent on a legal team to take on, along with crush, the organization levying in which. When the sum in which might be forced to pay was eventually decided, City could afford to declare in which tens of millions of euros did not “materially affect” its business.

in which is actually the true image cast by the revelations of the last week, one in which has ramifications far beyond tribal self-interest: of not just one club, however of a whole host of them in which believe the rules should be altered to fit their needs; of teams so inflated by success in which they can right now casually disregard the diktats of their governing bodies; of teams too big to fail, beyond control.

in which is actually what led City both to deceive along with then disdain UEFA. in which is actually what led to the endless adjustments to the Champions League along with the tweaks to domestic cup competitions along that has a series of bans for illegally approaching, or signing, young players: an essential arrogance, a disregard for consequence, a belief in which might makes right. in which is actually what threatens the fundamental rupture inside fabric of the game best reflected in in which Bayern-concocted plot for a breakaway super league in which might involve pulling players out of all international soccer, including the globe Cup.

Perhaps in which is actually understandable in which City tried to circumvent a set of rules designed, to a large extent, specifically to protect the teams in which was trying to usurp. Perhaps in which was justified in fighting, tooth along with nail, the idea in which in which might be punished by what in which considers a rigged system. Perhaps UEFA got lucky in which in which did not go to court. Perhaps, too, in which might be evidence of a skewed morality to condemn City’s owners for all of in which however not for the allegations of human rights abuses along with oppression they have overseen inside United Arab Emirates.

however to turn a blind eye to in which, as the game’s authorities seem likely to do, is actually to help yet again usher in a game with one rule for the rich along with another for the poor; a game of governing bodies in which cower at the trembling fist of the great along with the Great; a game of teams who decide which rules suit them, along with when, along with of authorities who act at the behest of their most powerful subjects along with fans in which contort themselves to praise actions in which might otherwise draw scorn. in which is actually to embrace a game in which is actually not being run inside interests of the many, however the few, along that has a world where the quality of an idea is actually no match for a quantity of petrol.