When Uefa recently fined Premier League champions Manchester City over violating their Financial Fair Play rules, one of the “punishments” was that City could only name a 21-man squad for next season’s Champions League campaign instead of the usual 25. Not much of a punishment as City only used 21 players in this season’s campaign.
When Uefa made the announcement there was no mention in a reduction of the eight homegrown players rule, meaning that almost 40% of City’s would be English or players who were brought up in academies of English teams.
That meant that the likes of Joleon Lescott, Micah Richards, James Milner and Jack Rodwell all become really important as they filled those homegrown slots. For a team with aspirations of winning the Champions League that is not good enough so City appealed. And Uefa caved saying it was “appropriate” to reduce the number of home-grown players present in the smaller squad.
Gianni Infantino, Uefa’s general secretary, said: “It came after a request from the players union FIFPro saying when you take these kind of sanctions and measures you cannot harm the players – and the rights of a player who has a contract – for the behaviour of the clubs.
“So we looked at it and it was felt appropriate there for the number to be proportionally reduced as well.”
So now City have to name only five homegrown players, of which three are expected to be England goalkeeper Joe Hart, midfielder Jack Rodwell, and left-back Gael Clichy who qualifies because he came through the Arsenal academy. Add in a fringe defender like Dedryck Boyata and City are almost there.
So the reduction in squad size or the fine are not meaningful punishments for City, and neither are the restrictions on transfers or wages. City can can spend just £49m on players this summer, plus any money the receive in transfer fees. When you add in the departure of Milner and a couple of others, City will have a net spend of over £50m this summer, more than enough to refresh a squad that is already the best in England.
The biggest challenge might be the ruling that City’s wage bill for 2014-15 must stay the same as last season. City’s wage bill is already the biggest in England and adding a couple of big names will only increase it. So the trimming of overpaid players who are no longer contributing to the first team success will be crucial this summer.