Jose Mourinho may not seem a natural casting as PT Barnum given the humdrum football his Spurs team have served up this season, but 2020 has been an unusual year and his slamming of Financial Fair Play offers a glimpse of a possible future.
“When I say it should finish it is not because I do not agree with the basic principle. It’s because I don’t agree with the circus.
“So let’s open the door of the circus and let people enjoy and don’t pay and go in and come out and do what they want and stay for the clown show and then go out because I don’t like the horses’ show. I come in, I go out, there is no control. Let people enjoy freely.”
Now while I think we can all agree that Jose’s big circus metaphor has slightly run away with itself by the end of this – does a circus even have a door? – the great miserable dafty is also definitely on to something.
FFP doesn’t work, so let’s sack it off. It was never about fair play anyway, not really; that was just a name they gave it to try and hoodwink people. The real purpose was protecting the Old Money Cartel – your Liverpools, your Manchester Uniteds, your Juventuses, the Real Madrids of this world – who we’re supposed to believe think it’s just ghastly that there’s all this money ruining football now.
Hopefully, City follow up their spectacular pulling-down of UEFA’s pants by going on a comedy spending spree this summer. Anything less than half a billion will be a bit disappointing, to be honest.
They’ve had a strange old season, have City. There’s no disgrace in finishing second to this Liverpool side, but being 20 points off the pace is a bit much for two-time defending champions. What they’ve lost is the consistency. Their ceiling is still higher than Liverpool’s, as shown by an eight-goal advantage in goal difference and 15 more goals to their name. What’s gone wrong is that their floor is now not only much lower than Liverpool’s, but much, much lower than their own in recent seasons. They may well hit double figures for matches lost in the Premier League this season. That is wild from a team that has pretty much racked up 200 points in the last two seasons.
Losing as many league games as Arsenal or Sheffield United definitely can’t have been in Pep’s big vision for the year.
The Project Restart mini-season has provided a perfect microcosm of a City season where they have managed to lose to bottom-of-the-table Norwich and even Tottenham. City have played seven games since the restart, with the narrowest of their five wins a 3-0 spanking of Arsenal. The other two games they have carelessly lost at Chelsea and Southampton. Tremendous fun.
Now they could spend money on trying to sensibly address this problem. They do have an ageing squad with a couple of notable gaps – particularly at centre-back – to explain what’s happened this season.
But balls to that. Hopefully Pep and City will really buy into Jose’s whole fun circus idea and just become a wildly expensive Big Top. Spend it all on making sure they score 200 goals next season and cry tish and fipsy to keeping them out. Roll up, roll up! Come and see the great daft football team! Will they win 8-0 or somehow bollocks it up? Who knows? Not us, and not them! The 2018/19 Manchester City were enormously worthy and startlingly relentless, but this one is just much more fun.
And as Jose rightly pointed out before going all Hugh Jackman on us, what now of Newcastle? Their potential Saudi takeover appears to be having greater problems getting past the banning of a lucrative Premier League broadcast partner than all the horrific human rights abuses, but if it does go through then Monday’s CAS ruling can only be good news for the Toon.
“A club like Newcastle with a new owner, if there is no Financial Fair Play he will be free to do what he wants, to spend what he wants, to get the best players in the world if he can afford that. Without hiding anything.”
When you think about it, City’s high-wire season of dazzling victories and inexplicable disasters has really just been a glossier, slicker, more 21st century re-imagining of the great but hopelessly fragile Newcastle sides of the 90s. What could be better than the return of the real thing?
And if you don’t want Steve Bruce managing a team containing Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, do you really even like football at all?