MANCHESTER, England (AP) — As Manchester City’s lawyers prepare for another battle to clear the club’s name, manager Pep Guardiola said Friday the Premier League champions have already been condemned.
City was accused on Monday of breaching a slew of financial regulations over a nine-year period. If found guilty, the club could face a fine, deduction of points or, in the most extreme case, expulsion from English soccer’s top division.
“My first thought is we are already being condemned,” Guardiola said. “We are lucky we live in a marvellous country where everyone is innocent until proved guilty. We didn’t have this opportunity. We are already sentenced.”
City had a two-year ban from European club competitions overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in 2020 after UEFA had ruled it had committed “serious breaches” of financial fair play regulations from 2012-16.
City has said it will prove its innocence after the latest accusations, which followed a four-year investigation and, if upheld, represent one of the biggest scandals in the history of the Premier League.
“Look what happened with UEFA,” Guardiola said. “We proved it. It is the same case. Why should I don’t trust with my people? Why should I trust the CEOs or the owners of the 19 clubs, the nine clubs like it was with UEFA? No, I trust my people.
“I’m fully convinced that we will be innocent, and then what will happen next? Will it stop now? It’s not because of UEFA but since Abu Dhabi took over the club, since Day 1 it was like that.”
City is accused of about 80 breaches of financial rules and 30 more relating to its alleged failure to cooperate with the investigation since December 2018.
Guardiola became the first person from the club to publicly address the accusations when speaking at a news conference ahead of his team’s Premier League match against Aston Villa on Sunday.
He said City’s reputation had been damaged as result of repeated allegations of financial wrongdoing.
“Just in case we are not innocent we will accept what the judge in the Premier League decides,” he said. “But what happens if in the same situation that UEFA happened we are innocent? What happens to restore or pay back our damage? Because the damage is now for one decade.”
Guardiola has previously criticized City’s rivals amid scrutiny of the club’s exorbitant spending under the ownership of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family. Signings such as Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and Jack Grealish have turned City into the dominant force in English soccer, winning six league titles and eight other major trophies.
In 2020, Guardiola accused rival teams of a “whispering” campaign against City and Friday he said Premier League clubs are driving the latest action.
“When they push to get rid of us from this competition, that is obvious because they believe that we didn’t behave properly,” Guardiola said. “And we can accept that but, let us defend when we believe we did it properly.”
Amid questions about his own future, he was adamant he would remain as manager.
“I am not moving from this seat. I can assure you, more than ever I want to stay,” he said. “Sometimes I have doubts, seven years already is a long time in any country. Now I don’t want to move. Not because people say they lied to you Pep. They didn’t lie to me.”
James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson
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