Uefa strikes blow to maintain status quo

In these confusing times, R&B crooner Ne-Yo most likely thinks of Manchester City whenever he delivers the line: "How can something that feels so right be so wrong?"

Uefa strikes blow to maintain status quo

After some initial resistance, many accept this City is a splendid creation; a vital safety valve protecting us from the tyranny of Manchester United, the malevolence of Mourinho and now the over-bearing hubris of Liverpool.

Sure, steered by the early shapings of Garry Cook, City looked certain to become obscene enough to reflect the wealth lavished on it.

You will remember that Cook wanted Richard Dunne out because his wasn’t the face to drive sales of “football content” to China and India. The world domination plan envisaged a range of City cars and scooters, a restaurant chain — where Dunner’s face may have been a better strategic fit — and three new energy drinks; City Powered, City Energy and City 24/7.

Cook has since found a suitable channel for his 24/7 aggression in the UFC, while City has focused most of its energy on the pitch, even modestly stepping out of the rocket fuel space; settling for Jaguar as its official energy drink partner.

In a rancorous era, City have become the team nobody hates; with a dignified gaffer and an enjoyably freewheeling approach that accepts defeat as a live possibility with the kind of phlegmatic reason only men trousering a quarter-of-a-million every week can muster.

They even seem to have fitted a mask of acceptability to Samir Nasri.

Rather than Cook, City is now personified by Yaya; a genial powerhouse, who might be able to embarrass you whenever he wants, but tends to do so just often enough to keep the show on the road.

Even their neighbours are urging them over the line and we live in a time when being the lesser of evils is as near to sainthood as most can realistically aspire.

Yet, there is no presumption. No matter how much they throw at it, their people will not let City presume.

We saw the true face of City on Wednesday night, in the Etihad stands; a young boy covering his father’s eyes with his hands, the pair unable to watch. There was only an hour gone and their own Kolarov was lining up a free-kick.

There was no cause for panic, but these people always fear the worst because they have seen the worst. Many of the nouveau riche have shed their old fan-bases, but City still offers the cheapest season tickets in the division, so the miserablists from the old Kippax are still around, fretting.

Now the oil money brings them some joy amid the worry and it brings, at worst, indifference from everyone else. It seems like money well spent.

And yet, as right as this feels; as far as Uefa is concerned, City is wronger than anyone has ever been. According to Uefa, we have never seen wrongness on this scale before. We are talking about wrongness 6,000 times wronger than racism; 600 times worse than wearing bookmakers’ pants and 200 times more grave than fixing Serie A.

The slap on the wrist for trying to fix football matches by buying better footballers is now €60m. We are, admittedly, in unchartered territory; European football is set to become a rolling World Cup final between UAE and Qatar, with Russia slipping into the enthusiastic also-ran positions — the price it must pay for carving up its resources between too many billionaires.

You could have sympathy for Uefa’s concerns if it was blowing a whistle on lavish spending and exorbitant wages. Or if it was doing something about ownership.

But in chaining spending to revenue, Uefa is just whistling the tune of the American billionaires who own Manchester United and Arsenal and Liverpool; billionaires who know the price of everything but have shown few signs they value glory all that highly.

In United’s case, billionaires hurriedly extracting money from the sport, rather than putting it in.

Of course, the UAE lads will appreciate, better than anyone, how you protect the status quo, coming from a family that has ruled its land for centuries. But as proud oil men, they might have mistakenly heeded the credo of the greatest oil man, JR Ewing, when he told us: “All that matters is winnin’.” Not so.

Uefa is saying that, in an ideal world, every Champions League final should be contested by traditional powers with the largest stadiums and the most finely-tuned money-making rackets.

They are saying you can buy footballers with the proceeds of sweatshop tat flogged to people in faraway lands, but you must sweat on faraway money with no strings.

They are saying you can buy footballers with ludicrously imbalanced TV proceeds, confirming Garry Cook’s view that the sale of football content had to take priority over the football.

Uefa is essentially saying that Garry Cook — and his successor Ferran Soriano — are more critical to City’s long-term hopes than Yaya.

As for all the miserablists in lots of places like the old Kippax; Uefa isn’t offering them any hope at all.

Stepping up at clutch moments

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”

That line is attributed, maybe wrongly, to Theo Roosevelt.

Ray Houghton has since come up with a fourth thing; see what happens and then decide which was the right thing.

Poor Darren Gleeson, last Sunday, managed a fifth way; with the option to do nothing unavailable, he chose the right thing but managed, at the same time, to do the wrong thing.

Unfortunate, and heartening that the blame game hasn’t been too severe in Tipp. But then it’s only the league.

Tempting too to write the winning and losing of it off to fortune; someone had to be ahead when it eventually finished up. Maybe.

Last Tuesday, in these pages, Kieran Shannon talked of hurling and the NBA. Two places ‘where amazing happens’. Too right.

Like when Portland’s Damian Lillard hit that three with 0.8 seconds on the clock to beat the Houston Rockets.

Lillard has talked at length since about that prized NBA asset; becoming clutch.

“I’ve seen a lot worse than missing a game-winning shot or turning the ball over at the end of a game. I don’t see it as a threat if it doesn’t go perfect, and I always feel like I’m going to make it.”

Theo’s way. The wrong thing isn’t the worst thing, that’s not stepping up at all.

TJ Reid was clutch on Sunday, even if it was only the league.

Heroes & Villains

Stairway to Heaven

Helena Costa: Any official reaction yet from Gray and Keys to her appointment? Sepp Blatter: “My mission is not finished.” The man the big dogs call the big dog.

Hell in a Handcart

Greg Dyke, above: Surely a fairer and more practical restriction on financial doping would be tighter limits on the number of players clubs like City can register — certainly not a ‘b-team’ scheme to help them field even more.

Steve Peters: Ronnie and Liverpool buckled on the same night. Maybe Roy Hodgson was right when he warned us not to put too much pressure on psychologists.

John Virgo and Dennis Taylor: “Where’s the cue ball going?” Nowhere near the pocket, lads.

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