November 7, 2018

EPL FREE KICKS: FFP allegations could put Man City in world of hurt

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

Even with some fantastic football on the pitch this week, the biggest story was off it.

German news magazine Der Spiegel has published more leaked information from Football Leaks regarding Abu Dhabi’s involvement with Manchester City and how the club is allegedly skirting FIFA’s Financial Fair Play rules.

It’s no secret that City has been flush with cash since Sheikh Mansour bought the team in 2008 and turned it into a powerhouse — pumping a reported $1.44 billion US into the club.

The new documents allege that City has been using direct funds from Abu Dhabi, where Mansour is a member of the royal family, in order to make up for any shortfalls in the budget. To keep suspicions of FFP abuse away, the money would technically come from a sponsorship company.

Some of the e-mails published could be damning.

Regarding a $19.65-million sponsorship from UAE-based firm Aabar, a board member wrote: “As we discussed, the annual direct obligation for Aabar is ($3.93 million). The remaining ($15.72 million) requirement will come from alternative sources provided by his highness.”

Another allegation: Etihad is paying just $10.48 million of its $88.41-million annual deal with the club for sponsorship rights. The rest is being paid by Abu Dhabi, of course.

While there is more to come about this, the Premier League and UEFA for sure need to open an investigation into exactly where City’s money is coming from. Financial Fair Play exists to keep teams on an even playing field. If one club can circumvent it with seemingly this much ease, it derails the entire sport.

But here’s the next problem: A member of City’s board once reportedly told a UEFA official that the team “would rather spend 30 million on the 50 best lawyers in the world to sue them for the next 10 years” than accept any sanctions from the European body.

Yikes.

This is just the tip of the iceberg and I’m sure we’re going to see a lot more about this and a lot more teams being involved with similar schemes as well.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Raheem Sterling gave us our biggest fantasy haul of the season, racking up a brilliant 21 points this week.

Two goals and two assists against Southampton gives him six and five, respectively, on the season. In games that the English winger has started he has only failed twice out of nine times to either score or pick up a helper.

It’s getting harder and harder for manager Pep Guardiola to rotate him while he’s playing with so much fire.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

What an emotional win for Leicester City. Picking up the three points in the match after their owner, Vvichai Srivaddhanaprabha, was killed in a helicopter crash. The team flew to Thailand for the funeral after Saturday’s game and you can expect emotions to be high once again this coming weekend, when they play at home for the first time since the tragedy … In all competitions this season, Danny Welbeck has more goals than Romelu Lukaku. This is despite the Belgian playing over 800 more minutes than the Gunner … Has any team had to deal with more scheduling shenanigans than Spurs? After playing on that terrible pitch last week, a day after an NFL game, this week they had an 8:45 p.m. kickoff. And as much as it’s being put out there that Tottenham is in a bit of a crisis, it still sits fourth in the table and is getting key players back from injury … Burnley just can’t stop getting burned. Another fourth goals allowed this week makes it 13 conceded in the past three games. Something has to change … Alvaro Morata should have had a hat trick against Palace. Not sure why he tried to chip the ball over Eagles goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey. It always seemed like the better option was to go around him … According to Football France, former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has reached a deal with AC Milan to replace Gennaro Gatuso. We guess that Wenger was getting sick of his vacation from the world’s game.

THE LAST WORD

It’s kind of amazing that we’ve made it this far into the season — nearly a third of the way — without seeing a manager get dismissed. But, if we were to bet, it will be happening sooner rather than later.

With the final international break of the year following this coming weekend’s games, some club should be looking at making a change.

First and foremost, Fulham.

After splashing some big cash in the summer, the Cottagers have looked miserable this season. Fulham’s defence has been a sieve, allowing 29 goals this season, four more than second-worst unit Burnley. Heck, the defence is so bad that it’s even scoring on itself, as Timothy Fosu-Mensah did in Monday’s loss to the previously winless Terriers.

While new arrivals Aleksandar Mitrovic and Andre Schurrle have been fine up front, combining for nine goals, the rest of the team seems lost.

The easiest person to blame is manager Slavisa Jokanovic. When the board shells out in excess of $100 million in one transfer window, it’s safe to expect more than five points from 11 games and a spot at the bottom of the table.

Newcastle and Huddersfield both picked up their first wins of the season this weekend, but that shouldn’t excuse either of their managers from fearing for their jobs. Both sides are having tremendous scoring goals with seven and five, respectively.

Neil Warnock at Cardiff City and Mark Hughes at Southampton are two other names to watch, but the biggest is — of course — Jose Mourinho.

The Special One may have stopped the bleeding, but things are still amiss at Old Trafford.

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