Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says he has little sympathy for Manchester City over their ban from European competition, especially as he regularly lost some of his best players to their wealthy Premier League rivals.
“The rules are what they are and people who don’t respect them… have to be punished,” said Wenger at the Laureus World Sports Awards in Berlin.
“If it is proven that this has been done on purpose, you can not let that go unpunished.”
On Friday, UEFA announced City had been banned from continental competition for two seasons for what the body said were “serious” financial fair-play breaches between 2012 and 2016.
City were also fined 30 million euros ($32.5 million) and are taking the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Since the Sheikh Mansour takeover in 2008, which put the financial might of Abu Dhabi behind them, City have won 10 major trophies — including four Premier League titles.
The 70-year-old Wenger managed the north London side from 1996 until 2018 and saw a steady stream of his best squad members snapped up by City.
“They bought all my players,” he joked in Berlin.
During his tenure, Wenger saw individuals like Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Adebayor (both in 2009), Gael Clichy, Samir Nasri (both 2011) and Bacary Sagna (in 2014) leave for the Etihad Stadium.
However, he drew the line at suggestions City should be stripped of some titles as the result of the financial fair-play breaches.
“I don’t know the rules well enough to see what kind of punishment there are when rules have not been respected,” Wenger added.
The Frenchman also criticised the growing gap between Europe’s richest clubs and those financially worse off.
“Historically, the richest clubs always win the trophies,” he added.
“This trend has become stronger.
“The best teams become richer and the difference to the smaller teams has become bigger.”
The future of City’s manager Pep Guardiola has been the subject of speculation since the news of the ban broke, and he may not appear before the media on Tuesday to preview the match against West Ham.
The match, originally due to have been played on 9 February, was postponed because of Storm Ciara and because the rearranged date comes within the same match round, there is no need for a second preview press conference to take place.
City are yet to confirm whether they will hold a press conference for the match.
It has been reported that Guardiola has told friends he intends to stay at City despite the announcement of the two-year ban.
Wenger’s long reign at Arsenal coincided with City’s emergence as a global superpower, and led to a procession of stars including Emmanuel Adebayor, Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri swapping the Emirates Stadium for the Etihad.
But Wenger would not be drawn on the suggestion that City should be punished further by being stripped of the silverware they earned during the period in question.
He added: “I don’t know the rule well enough to know what kind of punishment has to be made. But this is the sanction that is planned if the clubs don’t respect the rule.”
City have already vowed to launch an appeal to the court of arbitration for sport, alleging that the process was “prejudicial”.