UEFA have delivered a damning verdict on Manchester City, but for the Premier League champions, the matter is a long way from being over.
The European governing body have handed City a two-year ban from the Champions League and a €30 million fine (£25m/$33m) for a “serious” breach of Financial Fair Play rules and failing to cooperate with their investigation.
The fallout from the decision could be wide-reaching and instantly calls into question the long-term futures of manager Pep Guardiola and many of the star names of City’s highly-talented squad.
However, club sources maintain they are confident that they will succeed in overturning the decision once the case has been given a fair and independent hearing.
City immediately put out a response to the verdict from the Adjudicatory Chamber of UEFA's Club Financial Control Body (CFCB), which came after a 14-month investigation. In a statement, they pledged to “commence proceedings with the Court of Arbitration for Sport at the earliest opportunity”.
The club claims it will continue to operate as normal, insisting that the process is definitely not at an end and that there is more legal action to come.
City were planning a major rebuild in the summer - masterminded by sporting director Txiki Begiristain and Guardiola - in a bid to renew their challenge on runaway Premier League leaders Liverpool.
Guardiola enters the final 12 months of his contract at the end of this campaign and is determined to reclaim the Champions League, which he has not won since his days with Barcelona.
The Catalan claimed he could be sacked if the last-16 tie with old foes Real Madrid goes the wrong way but, as it stands, this will be his final opportunity to deliver the trophy that the club hierarchy want more than any other.
When the investigation was launched in November 2018, following allegations first published in German magazine Der Spiegel, Guardiola sought assurances from senior staff about the club's position. “Of course I trust the club and what they have done,” he said when asked about about the probe, while adding that it was “completely wrong” to suggest they had bought success.
He has never broken a contract and remained adamant that he will see out his deal - he had even suggested that he could stay longer. Friday's ruling could change that.
The ban also has the potential to tear apart the City squad, with a potential two-year hiatus from European football coming just as some key players are reaching the peak of their careers. Players such as Aymeric Laporte, Bernardo Silva, and Ederson are tied down for another five years, while Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling - long admired by Real and Barca - will have three years left at the end of the season.
City are already set to lose veteran midfielder David Silva when his contract ends in the summer, while they also face a huge task in trying to keep Leroy Sane as the German winger seems destined for Bayern Munich.
That summer rebuild could be jeopardised by the ruling on Friday making it potentially far harder to attract the standard of player they are looking at. City are already making plans for a long-term replacement for club record-goalscorer Sergio Aguero, who is set to leave at the end of next summer, days before his 33rd birthday.
The Premier League champions insist they have not had a fair hearing as UEFA have initiated, reviewed and judged the whole process - essentially acting as judge, jury and executioner.
Two years without Champions League football could potentially cost them around £170 million ($222m) in prize money but if an appeal were to fail, the repercussions could be far more costly.