As the news of UEFA's decision first broke last week, Twitter became pretty hot and hectic with the word of City's punishment:
Then in the grandest media tradition, respected journalists who probably ought to know better by now rushed to hit "send" on their analyses of what it all meant.
Man City are fined £49m and capped to a 21-man Champions League squad after failing Uefa financial fair play rules http://t.co/oAWF88PEf8— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) May 16, 2014
Gabriele Marcotti of ESPNFC.com wrote this of the UEFA reduction of City's 25-man Champions League squad to 21 players:
It’s actually pretty stiff because eight of those 21 will still have to be what UEFA call “locally trained” players. That means guys who spent at least three years between the ages of 15 and 21 with a club from that country (England in City’s case).
So what this means is that City will either have to carry some dead wood and hope injuries remain at a minimum or buy more “locally trained” players, which can get expensive. Especially if other clubs know how badly they need them.
Andi Thomas of SBNation.com also fell for the okey-doke:
While the fine wouldn't present too much of a problem to the clubs' astoundingly wealthy owners, the possible restrictions on squad size could have a serious impact. Those squads would still be subject to the usual restrictions on home-grown players, a minimum of eight, and so the consequence could be a number of high-profile, high-price exclusions.
To both writers' credit, their pieces have stayed posted even after the most recent news broke—news that cut the heart out of their analysis, and news that caused several online tabloid reports to be "updated" online to omit the now apparently inaccurate conclusion that City would need eight home-grown players in the Champions League next season.
Both Stuart Brennan of the Manchester Evening News and David Kent of the Daily Mail are now reporting that the reduction in City's Champions League squad size will be accompanied by a disproportionate reduction in the number of home-grown players they must put on their Champions League roster.
"M.E.N. Sport understands that the Blues squeezed a concession out of UEFA and will be allowed 16 ‘free’ players and just five ‘home-grown,’" Brennan wrote recently.
It is probably as dangerous to assume that Brennan is right now as it was to assume that Marcotti and Thomas were before, except for one thing.
City are shedding home-grown players like a snake discarding skin in the past week.
"City have not made efforts to keep out-of-contract English players Joleon Lescott and Gareth Barry, while Micah Richards, Jack Rodwell and Scott Sinclair will leave," Brennan noted.
Suffice it to say that if City actually anticipated needing eight home-grown players, keeping at least one or two of those players would be the prudent course.
But City are clearly not worried. Assuming they can retain James Milner and that Joe Hart does not develop another case of the dropsies next season, City can survive having two or three home-grown players who do not see much action.
So what have we learned here?
We learned not to believe everything we read.
And we learned that (City's) actions always speak louder than (UEFA's) words.
In other words, we really didn't learn anything at all.