Pep Guardiola has accused Manchester City’s Premier League rivals of a witch-hunt against the club and claimed they have already been “condemned” and “sentenced” by those out to get them. In an extraordinary show of defiance, the City manager came out swinging just days after the club had been charged by the Premier League with 115 alleged breaches of their financial rules.
“My first thought is that we are already being condemned,” Guardiola said. “We are lucky we live in a marvellous country where we have a society where everyone is innocent until proven guilty. We didn’t have this opportunity. We are already sentenced.
“We are not part of the establishment of this league but at the same time I understand they can do it but let us defend ourselves, please.”
Citing Julius Caesar at one stage and joking that City might be forced to re-enlist former players Mike Summerbee and Paul Dickov to help the team in League Two or the National League, Guardiola launched an impassioned defence of the club at the same time as turning fire on their critics.
In a blistering first address since City were hit with the charges on Monday, Guardiola also:
- Accused the Premier League’s other 19 clubs of driving the case against his club
- Namechecked Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy when asked whether rivals clubs were behind the accusations against City
- Insisted he was more committed to City than ever
- Said he was convinced the club was “innocent”
- Vowed they would rebuild if expelled from the top flight
Asked if he felt the case was being driven by other Premier League clubs, Guardiola said: “Yeah of course – it is the Premier League. I don’t know why. You have to go to all the CEOs, the Daniel Levys, all these kinds of people and ask them.
“I think the Premier League, supported by 19 teams to put it out for the Premier League, will have good lawyers too to defend their position like we’re going to defend our position.
“I can have an opinion and feeling but when they push to get rid of us from this competition, that is obvious because they believe that we didn’t behave properly and we can accept that but let us defend [ourselves] when we believe we did it properly.
“I’m fully convinced we will be innocent. Just in case we are not innocent we will accept what the judge in the Premier League decides. But if, in the same situation that happened with Uefa and we are innocent, what happens to restore or pay back our damage?”
‘Like Julius Caesar, there are not enemies or friends’
City were banned for two seasons from European competition by Uefa in February 2020 for alleged financial fair play breaches only for the suspension to be overturned five months later by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Nine Premier League clubs wrote to Cas a month after Uefa’s ban was issued asking the court to dismiss any request by City to lift the suspension while the club appealed. Guardiola chose to name each club while also citing Julius Caesar, the former Roman general and statesman, as he hit out at what he felt is a campaign against City, who could face the ultimate sanction of top flight expulsion if the charges are proven.
“The damage is now for one decade,” he said. “One week [after] Uefa make a statement against us, nine teams – Burnley, Wolves, Leicester, Newcastle, Spurs, Arsenal, United, Liverpool, Chelsea – [wrote a letter wanting us] out of the Champions League, that they wanted that position.
“Like Julius Caesar said … in this world [there] are not enemies or friends, just interests. [Now] the same articles, the same accusations, the same everything – we have to be out of the Champions League, now we have to go to League Two or maybe the Conference.
“We are not a team with a long history or titles, we have been in the lower divisions and we will be back there. It’s not a problem just in case. We’ll get Paul Dickov and Mike Summerbee and we will do a good process and will be back, I’m pretty sure. But they should wait until the end. We’re going to defend ourselves as we did in the Uefa situation.”
‘More than ever I want to stay’
Guardiola signed a two-year contract extension last November to tie him to City until 2025 and insisted on Friday he had never felt more determined to stay at the club.
“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.
“Look what happened with Uefa. I said to them: ‘What happened?’ ‘Pep, we did nothing wrong. We proved it. It is the same case.’ Why shouldn’t I trust 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. Between them and my people, I trust my people. Not one second for the other ones.
“Between these nine teams before and the 19 teams now, between their word and the word of my people, I’m sorry but I rely on the words of my people.”