Manchester City's hopes of making Jude Bellingham the centrepiece of a big summer revamp could be complicated by the storm engulfing the club.
The Premier League champions kickstarted a rebuilding process last year with the capture of forwards Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez and that was expected to gather pace this summer with an overhaul of their squad.
Pep Guardiola is eager to freshen up his side amid concerns they have fallen into a comfort zone after so much success, with stars including Joao Cancelo and Bernardo Silva facing uncertain futures and others who have formed the nucleus of serial title winning sides now into their thirties.
City are determined to beat the likes of Real Madrid and Liverpool to Bellingham, the Borussia Dortmund and England midfielder, as they eye a long-term replacement for Kevin De Bruyne. They are armed with a huge transfer kitty on the back of soaring profits from player sales and booming revenues.
But Monday's bombshell news that City have been charged by the Premier League with 115 alleged breaches of financial rules has thrown a potential spanner into the works ahead of what is anticipated to be a very busy summer for the club.
City believe their name will be cleared and say they welcome the opportunity for an independent regulatory commission to "impartially consider the comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence that exists in support of its position."
No timescale has been given for when the commission will hear the case, despite City's top flight rivals wanting an outcome before the end of the season, and the process could drag on beyond the summer.
But the threat of sanctions, including points deductions and even expulsion from the Premier League, hanging over the club could yet prove a deterrent or obstacle for some players and compromise City's rebuilding plans.
Real, Liverpool and Bellingham's other suitors are also likely to view City's predicament as an opportunity to steal a march in the race for the coveted 19-year-old, whose next move is being carefully weighed up by the player and his family.
Nonetheless, sources have indicated that City are continuing to plan as normal for the window and are confident of being vindicated; something they are likely to impress on potential targets.
City primed for busy summer
City were banned from European competition for two seasons by Uefa in February 2020 over alleged financial fair play breaches but maintained a robust approach to that summer's window, confident that the suspension would be overturned in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas).
Cas ruled in City's favour in the July and within weeks City had signed Nathan Ake and Ferran Torres and later Ruben Dias, in what was a delayed window due to Covid, having laid the groundwork for months.
City are likely to target two midfielders, at least one full-back and a winger this summer, although the situation will be influenced by who stays and goes.
Bernardo Silva, the Portugal midfielder who has been linked with a move to Barcelona for the past few summers, ideally wants to be closer to home and could yet depart. Ilkay Gundogan is out of contract at the end of the season but while the Germany midfielder is in talks over a new deal, he is 32 and not a long-term solution.
De Bruyne, the midfield talisman behind four league titles, turns 32 in June and City - who like to plan their windows 18 months in advance - recognise he will not go on forever. Although Bellingham is a key target, City have distanced themselves from the Leicester midfielder James Maddison.
Cancelo joined Bayern Munich on loan on deadline day and the Bundesliga champions have an option to sign the Portugal full-back for €70 million. Left-back Benjamin Mendy is expected to depart when his contract expires this summer.
City were already short in the full-back position, having sold Oleksandr Zinchenko to Arsenal last summer, and while academy graduate Rico Lewis's emergence has been a blessing, another youngster, Sergio Gomez, has yet to convince and faces an uncertain future.
City's coffers swelled by player sales
Elsewhere, Aymeric Laporte - who has been linked with a move away in the past - has struggled for gametime in the Premier League this season and midfielder Kalvin Phillips faces a battle to prove himself after a nightmare debut season to date.
Kyle Walker, who has struggled for form and regular playing time this term, will be 33 in May and, despite being one of City's best performers this season, Riyad Mahrez turns 32 this month. AC Milan's Rafael Leao is one winger City have been monitoring.
City could likely command big fees for Bernardo and Cancelo if they were to go but, on top of record £613million revenues that are now the subject of much scrutiny, their coffers have already been swollen considerably over the past few years by huge profits on player sales.
While it remains to be seen how the Premier League case impacts the club going forward, City have raised £255million through player sales in the previous five seasons, including £68million in 2021/22 and £69million in 2020/21. And it is estimated they could have made more than £150million in profits from sales this season.
The sale of academy products Gavin Bazunu, Romeo Lavia, Sam Edozie and Juan Larios, who all joined Southampton for a combined fee of around £45million, constitute "pure profit" on the books.
In addition, Kieran Maguire, a lecturer in football finance at Liverpool University, estimates that City made a profit in accounting terms of around £114million from the sales of Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and Zinchenko last summer.
nytimes crossword(2023-02-08 03:52:29Z)
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