UEFA came down hard on Manchester City on Valentine’s Day, breaking the hearts of those fans dreaming of Champions League glory. The club has been banned from the Champions League and Europa League for the next two seasons and fined €30 million for breaking FIFA’s Financial Fair Play rules. The ban opens the door for the Premier League’s fifth-place team to qualify for UCL.

City will finish out this season in the Champions League where the team will face Real Madrid this month in the round of 16. But for the next two seasons the club will sit out the competition unless the decision is overturned by appeal. It’s a tough blow for City as its success is measured by how the club does in the competition after dominating domestically in England for the last handful of years. 

The big question for the club now shifts to its coach: Will Pep Guardiola stay and guide City through two Champions League-less seasons or will he depart and chase Europe’s top club trophy elsewhere?

On one side, it doesn’t make much sense for him to stay. He wants nothing more than to win UCL, and if his players can’t do it this season, will he really sit through two more campaigns focusing just on domestic competitions? 

For a coach as driven as Guardiola, who has failed to win the Champions League at Bayern Munich and so far at Manchester City, it’s hard to see him staying sidelined with City. Often when players switch teams, one of the requirements is to join a club that plays in the Champions League. If City can’t chase that goal, what type of player is going to be willing to sacrifice potential glory? It’s more than just missing out on the cup. This hurts who they can bring in, it may mean key players leave, and it all equals an uncertain future. 

It’s likely going to take the ban being reduced to one year for City to have any chance of keeping him. Even then, it’s going to be a challenge to convince him. 

Guardiola, who has a contract with the club until 2021, has yet to speak publicly about the ban, and it will be interesting to see exactly how he reacts. For now, it certainly feels like he has a foot out the door unless City can rally and win the Champions League this season.

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