Everyone knows that when you get a ringer – an ex-pro who isn’t registered – to play for your Sunday League side, he had better not be too good. Okay Gazza – you’re called Kevin Smith today. Wear the fake moustache, and for God’s sake don’t recreate the dentist’s chair if you score.
Anyone counting cards in a casino knows they had better not win too much money.
Or there’s the competitive dad, kicking and pushing aside the eight-year-olds in the park to score a goal, unaware that everyone is just staring at him as he’s a total fucking cock.
If you rig the system, or mislead the authorities, then you need to keep it under wraps a little. Don’t be utter dickwads about it. It almost felt this entire week, culminating in an utter debacle of an FA Cup final, as if City could not do humility. Beautiful football, built on a lie, according to Der Spiegel and Football Leaks. This is the Harlem Globetrotters, a faux sport, the opposition as goofing stooges; the result not bought by bribes but by stacking the decks.
Chelsea were never this stupid when financially doping. They had Jose Mourinho, after all, so things could never get too good. He briefly made them into a fearful machine, but their football was too prosaic; and there was always self-sabotage as an option. If anything, this is why the Champions League has been so good this season: while City, PSG, Bayern, Barcelona and Juventus mop up everything domestically (again), the main continental cup has sprung surprises. (Which is why those aforementioned clubs probably want a European super league.)
I started to wonder if I was hypocrite for enjoying City win the league ahead of Man United last season, but even though I suspected City might be in some way dodgy, the big reveals from Der Spiegel and Football Leaks only came in the past year. And even this past weekend City’s basic numeracy was at fault yet again, as they claimed a quadruple; with accounting like that, who can trust them?
From reading several articles over the weekend, it seems that Man City, in thrashing Watford, have merely drawn attention to their own alleged financial chicanery. Now, I didn’t watch the match – cakewalks do not make for good viewing, and the FA Cup ceased being interesting years ago – but it seems that, like Watford, Pep Guardiola got on the mega-defensive; while, after the game, a City fan broke into the media zone to talk about why the media talk so much about Liverpool, in so doing talking about Liverpool to the media, who then in turn talked about a City fan talking about Liverpool. Heck, Liverpool weren’t even playing. They were busy preparing for a Champions League final.
And let’s be fair, City have spent the week talking, and singing, about Liverpool. They sang about Hillsborough (always the victims), and about Liverpool fans being beaten up either in Liverpool by Roma fans (Sean Cox), or if not, in Kiev – as if it’s okay for players to sing about the fans of a rival club receiving grievous bodily harm at any point, in any city. What happened to “We Are The champions”? (Or campeoni, sang by fools as champione? – aka mushrooms.) Where were the songs about Manchester City? City fans used to be loyal, humorous, long-suffering, as this excellent Twitter thread shows; now, en masse, they sing songs about others’ tragedy. Oh how money corrupts.
City’s players and staff also sang about Vincent Kompany attempting to maim Mo Salah – how fucked up is that? – in a game where the referee, from Manchester, tipped the title City’s way with the biggest bottling of a red card you’ll ever see. (Imagine if Mike Dean did the same to benefit Liverpool in a home game against City? Would City fans be up in arms? Of course! You’d never heard the last of it, but Liverpool fans and players wouldn’t sing about it.) So let’s talk about City, with their guilty or confused faces, baffled as to why few genuinely love them as they shot themselves in the foot on the day they won their treble.
Guardiola is a sensational coach, and City are a sensational team; just like Lance Armstrong was a record-breaking cyclist and Ben Johnson was a record-breaking sprinter.
(Any inference drawn from that sentence is at the reader’s discretion, just as apparently City’s song of insults about Hillsborough and Sean Cox – according to their offensive PR guff – did not refer to the things the song was designed to refer to; after all, vile football chants aren’t designed to be kind, not least as some fans of all clubs are utter gobshites – just like those who threw bottles at City’s coach 15 months ago. Which is why players should not be singing the fans’ horrible songs, and why it was such a huge faux pas. It seriously crossed a line.)
But Guardiola is an amazing manager – so good that he shouldn’t need to financially dope; but when a club does so, it casts shade on its achievements. If your squad is so big because of financial doping that there’s no drop off in quality when rotating, is that really such an amazing achievement? If your club hides payments to its staff to keep its wage bill legitimate, then it means you can just overpower the competition. Even then, without financial doping, Liverpool racked up 97 points and reached a 2nd consecutive Champions League final.
By contrast, to get there, Liverpool has had to sell its best players, like Luis Suarez, Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho (over £400m received from those three sales alone since 2014, after inflation is applied) to fund this current squad. I’ve seen the City “net spend” argument, but that’s like saying you haven’t spent any money on food shopping this week – after you spent £2,000 last week. City already had a ton of expensive players. They’ve never been forced to sell anybody.
The gloves are off, and it turns out City hid a horseshoe in theirs. Just as PSG are about as loved and respected as syphilis, City seem to have undone the goodwill from their clearly beautiful Fabergé-egg football to score the ultimate own goal: making a mockery of the national game. In trying to launder their reputations these owners just don’t get sport. Indeed, they remove the ‘sport’ from the equation.
Then, when people turn around and say “this is fucking bullshit” they look surprised. This is football, not wrestling.
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