Of course Pep Guardiola is p*ssed off - he knows all of Man City's titles have an invisible asterisk beside them
The legendary American sprinter Florence Griffith Joyner holds the women's world record for both the 100 metres and 200 metres. Yet in the eyes of many of the Olympic champion's peers and successors, there is an invisible asterisk beside both times.
Why? Because they believe that Griffith Joyner was doping, even though she never failed a drug test before her death at the age of 38.
Indeed, compatriot Gwen Torrence does not even "acknowledge those records... To me, they don't exist."
Manchester City's records, titles and trophies are also now in danger of being disregarded by rivals, which Pep Guardiola is pretty p*ssed off about...
- Show Inter some respect! Simone Inzaghi's mentality monsters fully deserve to be in the Champions League final
- World-class or overhyped: What makes Declan Rice a £100m+ player?
- Cristiano Ronaldo's interview, Ben Foster's penalty save and the 21 craziest moments of the season
- Look what happens when you leave Tottenham, Harry! Kane's former Spurs team-mates who won trophies after departing White Hart Lane
'Those moments belong to us'
A fortnight ago, after City had been charged with more than 100 breaches of the Premier League's financial regulations between 2009 and 2018, there was immediate speculation that the club might be stripped of the titles they won during that time frame.
Former Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva, who has a runners-up medal from 2013-14, asked on Twitter, "Am I a Premier League champion?"
Guardiola, though, mounted an extraordinary defence of his Abu Dhabi-based employers, and was enraged by the suggestion that the most famous moments in City's history had been somehow tarnished by the allegations of financial misconduct.
"Come on!" he said. "Those moments belong to us, regardless of the sentence. Think about what we’ve done... that goal from Sergio Aguero [against QPR in 2012], nobody can remove that. I don’t know, are we responsible for Steven Gerrard slipping at Anfield? Was that our fault, too?"
- Getty Images
Guardiola 'ashamed' of himself
Not since his famous "f*cking master" tirade against Jose Mourinho in 2011 had we seen Guardiola go off on such a rant.
Back then, he was lauded for such a ballsy outburst. It was even seen as a pivotal moment in Barcelona's Champions League-winning campaign. However, this time around, even Guardiola acknowledged that he stepped over the mark by taking an "unnecessary" and "stupid" cheap-shot at Gerrard, subsequently admitting that he was "ashamed" of himself for referencing the former Liverpool captain's slip against Chelsea during the closing stages of the 2013-14 Premier League title race.
However, it gave us one of those all-too-rare insights into the mind of a genius: Guardiola, one of the game's great thinkers, a man who is usually so composed and collected, is visibly rattled right now.
He is bitter, paranoid, desperate and deluded, which is, honestly, a little sad from a neutral perspective, but also wholly understandable.
Because he knows what is at stake here: his entire legacy at Manchester City.
A lengthy legal battle
Normally at this time of year, when Guardiola is preparing his team for the knockout stages of the Champions League, he is repeatedly asked about whether his entire tenure at the Etihad Stadium can really be judged a success if he fails to conquer Europe.
However, with City set to face RB Leipzig in the tournament's last 16 on Wednesday, it's fair to wonder if it even matters anymore.
Guardiola may have recently extended his contract until 2025, but it's still highly likely that he will be gone by the conclusion of the Premier League's case against City.
It will be years before any punishment is dished out, with legal experts predicting that City will attempt to bury the Premier League in paperwork.
That's hardly good news for Guardiola, though. The club, its finances and its achievements will remain shrouded in suspicion until the day he departs. And he knows it, too.
'You know exactly what side I am on'
Guardiola is acutely aware that City have been already found guilty in the court of public opinion.
"My thoughts are that we have already been condemned," he told reporters. "You have to understand that the 19 teams of the Premier League are accusing us without any opportunity to defend ourselves.
"You know exactly what side I am on... If we are not innocent, we will accept what the judge or Premier League decide, but what happens if it's the same as UEFA and we are innocent? What happens to restore our damage?"
Guardiola is right to argue that everyone should be considered innocent until proven guilty, but he was also playing fast and loose with the truth here.
- Getty Images
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) overturned the two-year Champions League ban placed upon City by UEFA for alleged breaches of its Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations, but not because they were "innocent" of all charges.
Some allegations were indeed unproven, but others were simply time-barred (outside the five-year limit of UEFA's investigation). So, to suggest that City were found "completely innocent" was, in reality, completely incorrect.
This isn't even the first time that they've been accused of breaking the rules. In 2014, City actually accepted a conditional £49 million ($56m) fine and restrictions on their European squad and incoming transfers for breaching FFP regulations.
Guardiola, then, is either ignorant of the facts – or simply toeing the party line. The latter seems far more likely, given his stance on City's alleged misdemeanours has so dramatically shifted over the past year.
Last May, when asked about his defence of his bosses, Guardiola explained, "When they are accused of something, I ask them: 'Tell me about that.' They explain and I believe them.
"But I said to them: 'If you lie to me, the day after I am not here. I will be out and I will not be your friend anymore. I put my faith in you because I believe you 100 percent from day one and I defend the club because of that.'"
However, when asked about the possibility of walking away if City are found guilty this time around, Guardiola declared: "I am not moving from this seat, I can assure you. I want to stay more than ever."
Basically, Guardiola is now saying that regardless of the outcome of the legal process, he will continue to support City. He has effectively gone all-in with Abu Dhabi, and that looks like a terrible move on his part, much worse than any unnecessary tactical tweak he's ever made in a big Champions League game.
- Getty Images
'I want to stay more than ever'
Why? Because he can no longer play the innocent victim if City are found guilty. He will not be able to claim that he was somehow duped or deceived. In that sense, he's backed himself into a corner, damned by his own flawed logic.
Deep down, he knows full well that the argument put forward by some City fans that the club's players and managers have somehow been operating in a vacuum since 2009, that what happens on the pitch isn't directly related to moves made in boardrooms and financial departments, is pure bullsh*t.
He's even acknowledged himself that City's success would not have been possible without vast amounts of money, and the only relevant question relating to this whole affair is: where has that money come from?
But Guardiola no longer appears interested in the answer. He's already quite deliberately nailed his colours to the City mast. We do indeed know what side he's on, so it doesn't even matter now if it's the winning one.
Guardiola has pointed out that City have great lawyers and they may well beat the case, but the club's reputation has already been tarnished by the charges, and that's what grates with Guardiola. That's why he's so p*ssed off. Despite the show of defiance, he's aware of the impossible position both he and club now find themselves in.
No matter what happens, City will likely hold on to their records and titles, but they'll never regain control of the narrative. As Guardiola said himself, nobody can remove the Aguero moment from City's history. But, by the same rationale, nobody will ever be able to erase that invisible asterisk either.
In that sense, it doesn't matter what else Guardiola wins at the Etihad, he's already lost.