Shock waves were sent through the football world on Monday after it was announced that Manchester City have been charged by the Premier League with breaking financial rules.
- Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)
Allegations that the six-time Premier League champions made more than 100 breaches are the result of a four-year investigation into their various dealings under the ownership of the Abu Dhabi United Group.
City have been accused of breaking Premier League financial rules over the span of nine seasons between 2009-10 and 2017-18, as well as a further five seasons in which the league has claimed the club failed to cooperate with the independent investigation into their affairs.
While there is no precise precedent as far as punishment is concerned, potential sanctions could range anywhere from heavy fines and transfer embargoes to points deductions, enforced relegation and, theoretically, stripping City of their 2011-12, 2013-14 and 2017-18 titles.
Perhaps the closest example for comparison is from the mid-2000s when Juventus (among several other clubs) were found guilty of influencing match officials, resulting in the Bianconeri being relegated down to the second tier and stripped of two Serie A titles (2004-05 and 2005-06), the latter of which was handed to runners-up Inter Milan.
While unlikely, should City eventually be stripped of their titles there is a chance the teams that finished in second place in the seasons affected could be handed the honours by the Premier League, meaning that rivals Manchester United and Liverpool might both be in line to benefit as and when the ongoing investigation reaches its conclusion.
2011-12: Pipping Manchester United on goal difference
The first championship that could be hanging in the balance also happens to be Manchester City's historic first Premier League title, which they famously snatched from beneath the noses of Manchester United in the final few seconds of the final day of the season.
Sergio Aguero's 94th-minute winning goal against Queens Park Rangers was enough to swing the table in City's favour and seal the club's first title since 1968 on goal difference, with United finishing runners-up by the narrowest margin ever in the top flight.
2013-14: Coming from behind to overtake Liverpool
Am I a Premier League champion ?— Lucas Leiva (@LucasLeiva87) February 6, 2023
With United rallying to win the 2012-13 title in Sir Alex Ferguson's farewell season, City were forced to wait until the following year to reclaim their crown, doing so by fending off a resurgent Liverpool side to ultimately take the championship by just two points. The Reds had pushed City all the way and were top of the table with two weeks left to go, but a late-season capitulation (Steven Gerrard's infamous slip precipitating a 2-0 loss to Chelsea at Anfield, followed by a disastrous 3-3 draw at Crystal Palace in their penultimate match) saw Brendan Rodgers' side hand the advantage back to City, who leapfrogged to the summit and sewed things up by winning their final five games of the campaign.
However, this week's announcement by the Premier League has led to several of Liverpool's 2013-14 nearly men posting (tongue-in-cheek) questions on social media about finally getting their hands on a winners medal.
When is the parade reds ? I want to celebrate been a premier league champion— José enrique (@Jesanchez3) February 6, 2023
When is our open top bus parade?— jon flanagan (@jon_flan93) February 6, 2023
Having gone from strength to strength and established themselves as a major force in English football, City cemented their credentials by cantering to the 2017-18 title as the first-ever club to rack up 100 points in the process.
With Pep Guardiola at the helm, City also set new league records for most overall wins (32), consecutive wins (18) and most away wins (16) in a single campaign, as well as most goals (106) and highest goal difference (+79) as they romped home.
Guardiola's imperious side also set a new Premier League record for the biggest ever league-winning margin after finishing an astonishing 19 points ahead of the team in second place, namely Jose Mourinho's Manchester United.
"If I tell you, for example, that I consider one of the best jobs of my career was to finish second with Man United in the Premier League, you will say, 'This guy is crazy,'" Mourinho said the following year. "'He won 25 titles and he is saying that a second position was one of his best achievements?'
"I keep saying this because people don't know what is going on behind the scenes. And sometimes we, in this side of the cameras, analyse things with a different perspective."