The sense of injustice had clearly been eating away at him for weeks, if not months, but when Pep Guardiola finally responded to Manchester City’s critics in the wake of their successful legal battle with UEFA yesterday, it was a reaction that was as ominous as it was emotional.
Just hours after rivals Jurgen Klopp and Jose Mourinho had questioned the decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport to over-turn City’s two year Champions League ban, issued by UEFA for alleged Financial Fair Play irregularities, the City manager demanded an apology from his critics while declaring it a “great day for football.”
As he warmed to his topic, Guardiola also claimed his club had been “damaged” by the false accusations of wrong-doing and challenged his club’s critics to confront them face-to-face rather than through legal avenues.
With the expectation that the Catalan will now sign a long-term deal with City, and be armed with eye-watering amounts of money to strengthen his squad, it was a response that should strike fear into his opponents.
“Jose and all the managers should know that we were damaged. We should be apologised to,” said Guardiola. “Like I said many times, if we did something wrong, we will accept absolutely UEFA’s decision.
“But we don’t expect Liverpool or Tottenham or Arsenal or Chelsea or Wolves or all the clubs are going to defend (us) but we can defend ourselves.
“We have the right to defend ourselves when we believe what we have done is correct, is right and three independent judges said this.
“So yesterday was a good day for football because we play with the same rules for Financial Fair Play as all the clubs in Europe, all of them.
“We were damaged. People said we cheated we’re lying, many, many times; the presumption of innocence was not there. And, after, when it happened and it was right, of course we are incredibly happy because we can again defend what we have done on the pitch.”
Klopp had earlier described the CAS ruling as a “bad day” for football while Mourinho, not unreasonably, questioned why City had been fined for failing to co-operate with UEFA’s investigation if they were not guilty of any wrong-doing.
But Guardiola was in no mood to discuss the intricacies of the case, other than to express his obvious displeasure at clubs complaining about City to the authorities.
It was a confrontational position for Guardiola to take but one which will only endear him even more - if that were possible - to his club’s fan base who have long seen FFP as nothing more than a vehicle, designed by the ruling elite to safeguard football’s status quo.
“They are just the opinions of Jurgen and Jose but I tell Jose and Jurgen, today was a good day for football, a very good day,” he said. “It was clear what happened and that’s nice.
“I know for the elite clubs, like Liverpool, Man United, Arsenal, it’s uncomfortable being here but they have to understand we deserve to be here.
“We deserve to be stronger year by year. We have incredible people working at this club to make it better, to make our fans proud.
“We don’t have to ask permission to be there, we deserve to be there and when we lose, I will shake my colleague’s hand and congratulate him.
“Guys, accept it. But if you don’t agree just knock on the door of our chairman, our CEO and talk. Don’t go from behind and whisper we’re going to do this, seven, eight, nine clubs, doing it from behind. Go and do it on the pitch. Let’s go.” Eight Premier League clubs had contacted CAS during the appeal process earlier in the year, asking that City not be allowed to start next season’s Champions League campaign if a decision was still pending.
Guardiola could understand that desire for clarity from his rivals but was less appreciative of the behaviour of La Liga president Javier Tebas, who was openly critical of CAS’s part in clearing City.
“He’s another one, this guy must be so jealous of the Premier League and English football,” said Guardiola. “He’s an incredible legal expert, so next time maybe I’m going to ask him to which court, which judges we have to go.
“He has to be a little bit worried and concerned about La Liga and focus on them. Normally, these kind of people, when the sentence is good for him - as happened many times in Spain - but when the sentence is against, the problem is with the others. So we’ll be in the Champions League next season, señor Tebas, because what we did, we did properly.”