The viewpoint about to be expressed is probably purely academic due to Manchester United’s loss to West Ham on Tuesday but with City only two points ahead of their cross-town rivals heading into the final weekend of the season there is still the chance that they could be leapfrogged and hence end up in the Europa League next season.
Many have expressed that they would find it quite hilarious for Pep Guardiola to arrive at City with the prospect of having to navigate a Europa League campaign. Guardiola is a big coach who has signed up for a big team so surely he would be expecting to be in the Champions League. True, but is it really a big deal if they aren’t? First of all, it wouldn’t have been his fault they ended up there. His job starts in the summer and any successes or failures that happen before that he has nothing to do with.
So what are the major challenges City will face if they don’t qualify for the Champions League? Okay, sure they miss out on Champions League revenue but when since has City become a team that relies on CL revenue to survive? With record BPL TV money now in play and Sheik Mansour in charge, I hardly believe one season in Europa is going to result in them suddenly becoming paupers.
Another potential impact is in regards to player recruitment. The argument that the best players in the world want to play in the Champions League and thus clubs need to be in the Champions League to attract the best players sounds good in theory but how many times have we seen this play out differently in the past? Of course the best players want to play in the best competitions but players are also motivated by other factors such as the best projects and the best coaches. I’m fairly confident that a Man City team that has just hired arguably the highest rated coach in the world would be able to sell an interesting project to more than a few top players regardless of which European competition they are in come September.
In fact, a lack of Champions League may turn out to be a blessing for Pep. Since Guardiola’s announcement it’s been made clear that his bosses are not expecting him to turn City into the Champions of Europe overnight. They want that eventually but no one is naive enough to think he should be winning the Champions League right out the gate. Well, maybe not no one as the media and Pep opponents will be placing pressure on him to deliver instant miracles in the hope he fails so they can turn around and say “I told you so.” No Champions League football allows him time to focus on recapturing the BPL title while giving him also giving him a platform to rest and rotate his players in with the Europa. We’ve seen how teams without Champions League football to strain their squads within the past have benefited in the league and City could capitalize just the same.
Come final whistle on Sunday we will know which Manchester team will claim England’s final Champions League spot. There will be laughs and banter for the team that misses out but let’s be clear, City can afford to miss out.
Plus, Guardiola’s never won the Europa. If City fall on Sunday, all round good guy Pellegrini is probably just giving him a chance to add something new to his cabinet.