La Liga's Super League fight: How Spain reacted to Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico split

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ESPN 23 April, 2021 - 03:14pm 28 views

Who is still in the Super League?

This means that just three clubs remain in the Super League - Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona and Italy's Juventus. Sky NewsEuropean Super League: Prince William 'glad united voice of fans has been heard' - as only three clubs left in project

Is Real Madrid out of Champions League?

Friday: Real Madrid won't be kicked out of the Champions League, it's official, though UEFA's Ceferin still hinted at consequences. "That debate is absurd," said Real Madrid manager, Zinedine Zidane, about the prospect of missing their semifinal next week against Chelsea. ESPNLa Liga's Super League fight: How Spain reacted to Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico split

What is the new Champions League format?

The new Champions League format is due to start in 2024 and run until at least 2033. The number of clubs competing in it will increase from 32 to 36 with a revamped group stage that will see all teams play at least 10 fixtures. "Ten games rather than six and no idea where to put them in," said Klopp. bbc.comChampions League: Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp unhappy with new format

Sunday night/Monday morning: It was 5 a.m. and 12 clubs finally stumbled out of the bar into the breaking day, drunk on selfishness and a lack of solidarity. That was the cartoonish portrait painted by Javier Tebas, the president of La Liga who had been waiting for this moment for a long time. You couldn't help thinking he was enjoying this, too. He would certainly enjoy the way it played out, which in the end was pretty perfect from his point of view.

Tebas had always tried to present the game's super clubs -- Spain's three giants, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid were all involved -- as people who had no idea what they were doing, living in a fantasy world, a plan for world domination scrawled on the back of a cigarette packet. What happened next helped him drive home that idea.

Now, at last, the conspirators were out into the open. Well, sort of. Most of the men involved hid behind standard statements announcing that 12 of the biggest football clubs in Europe -- "of the" is important there -- were going to leave UEFA and set up a Super League all of their own. At that early stage, only one of them appeared publicly: Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, who would also preside over the new league. It is, in short, a coup. "They'll get a response," Tebas threatened. But even he couldn't have expected one like this.

Monday: Everyone went mad. Just not in Spain, for the most part. There were protests and outbursts in England; in Spain, there was some critical media reaction and some furious fans, but much more muted. It was hard to judge what the balance of opinion was, but Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico fans were not really revolting. At least, not in that way. There was no popular uprising, no unanimous rejection.

There was, however, an institutional reaction from La Liga, as every club released statements rejecting the plan. A banner was put up at the Camp Nou, and a handful of Atletico supporters' groups put out statements. But, at least in the case of Madrid fans, it felt like most didn't care much for what they might be leaving behind and weren't that bothered by the impact it would have on smaller clubs, which really aren't their concern and never really have been. If anything, they were actually quite looking forward to playing in a better competition and one that they could run.

That night, Perez appeared on a TV show called "El Chiringuito," which wasn't a great way to sell the project, and which you will have seen by now. He is short on detail, long on superiority and saviour complex, yet he's vulnerable with it too. He is on his own, for a start. On a late night, cheap show with a cheap set on a lesser TV channel, he said that football was in free fall, ruined and broke.

"We can't wait until 2024," he said, "we'll be dead by then." If this project didn't happen, they were in big, big trouble. Hold that thought.

Tuesday evening: In an interview with French newspaper L'Equipe, Perez was asked if he feared any of the other clubs pulling out. "No," he said. But a few hours later, they already were. He would later say that he never really trusted that one of them -- Manchester City -- was fully committed. It was all falling apart.

That night, Perez pulled out of another interview. He was up until 1 a.m., he later said, trying to keep the clubs on board. He didn't manage to. Soon, there were only two clubs left who had not released any kind of statement either backing away from the project entirely or expressing some disappointment at its failure. And that was Madrid and Barcelona. Although...

In other words, Perez was saying this still existed, it's not done yet although, at the same time, he effectively admitted that it was over, at least in this format.

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The interview came after Madrid had played at Cádiz, where a handful of fans had greeted their bus with chants of "capitalists!" Cadiz's players came onto the pitch wearing t-shirts prepared by La Liga protesting against the breakaway. Every other team did the same; La Liga were enjoying this. Milking it, too. Somehow, they had become the good guys, on the fan's side, and you can insert your own shoulder-shrugging emoji here. TV screens came embossed with a Champions League logo and the slogan: "Earn it". Madrid earned a 3-0 win.

In the interview, Perez said that protesting Chelsea fans were few... and also fake. "I can tell you who took them there," he said. Go on then, they replied. "The same as [who] organised the t-shirts," he said. Who would have thought it? Tebas had a secret stash of stooges prepared to play the role of Chelsea fans?

Perez didn't come out of the week well; at times his appearance was baffling, rambling, barely coherent and weak. It certainly wasn't convincing. The damage done would only be mitigated by the protection he is afforded in Madrid.

And yet, there was still no word from Barcelona. Stories coming out from Atletico revealed -- or claimed, for those of you with a more cynical mind -- that they had come on board very late, after being told: it's you or Sevilla. (Not true, Sevilla's president would say, but then it's perfectly plausible he didn't even know and was never "fortunate" enough to have a decision to make.) They had doubts, and the moment that they saw Bayern Munich fall they feared that this whole thing was going down. Madrid still clung to the idea that it wouldn't go down. Barcelona still hadn't said anything, even though their veteran defender, Gerard Pique, had. "Football is for the fans, now more than ever," he tweeted.

Thursday: In a world-wide press conference with over 300 journalists*, including one from England drinking too much tea, Tebas declared the super league project dead, or very nearly.

*What a brilliant idea. Why didn't the conspirators think of that?

Asked if he was surprised at the behaviour of the English clubs, Tebas replied: "Some of the English clubs surprised me, but not Manchester United because we know that [the Glazers own] an NFL franchise and those American owners have a different concept of sport. In Europe, it's not the same. And it's not just tradition; it's the industry model. Across the whole of Europe, there are no closed leagues. I wasn't surprised... the most surprised people were them because they end up having to say sorry for what they had done."

Then he laughed. They had not understood "that English feeling, which is bigger than in other countries," he said. And the reactions had proven that to be true.

Spain did not respond in the same way. There was time for another joke at their expense, a chance to poke fun at their folly and their failure. Even Tebas must have been surprised how easy it was in the end. "I don't know what his geometry is like because it's clearly not a pyramid," he added. "It's more like a balcony with 12 people on it where, once in a while, someone walks underneath and it falls on them."

"After 20 years of threats, always there, [the super league] finally happened -- and in 48 hours, it was gone," the president of the league said. "We waited 20 years for it and it dissolved like a sugar lump. It's not entirely dissolved, but the active threat [of a breakaway] no longer exists because we have seen the reaction was huge. And you know it's not good for football, because if you did, you wouldn't have done it all clandestinely."

About the same time on Thursday, Barcelona finally released a statement and president Joan Laporta spoke. They didn't pull out as most assumed they would; instead, they actually did the opposite. Pérez was no longer alone: now there were two of them, rivals and collaborators. Barcelona's statement was a word salad of silliness in places, empty of any real content, but it was clear on others. And there was no apology, no backing down. Not joining would have been a "historic error," it said. Laporta, who has inherited a truly dire financial situation, was determined to play. But who would they play?

"I don't know if it's a bi-super league or a tri-super league now," Tebas said. Yes, he was enjoying this, alright. "Perez and Laporta are not being realistic. The six [English] clubs are never going to be in that type of competition now, never. The German teams are never going to be in it, ever. And they can't do it without those countries. It's dead. To ring on the door for a negotiation now would be cynical." Anyway, he added, fixing the financial crisis isn't a question of getting more money but cutting costs -- and the way Barcelona have burned cash in recent years, he had a point. Increasing income just means "players getting seven Ferraris instead of six."

Friday: Real Madrid won't be kicked out of the Champions League, it's official, though UEFA's Ceferin still hinted at consequences. "That debate is absurd," said Real Madrid manager, Zinedine Zidane, about the prospect of missing their semifinal next week against Chelsea. It's not the only thing that is absurd.

Where are we at? With the fans? There has been a backlash against the backlash. Lots of people have hit on the hypocrisy. Others have come to the aid of Perez, a little bit of a punching bag over the past few days, and not entirely unjustifiably. Mostly those attacks on him have not come in Spain, where fear and favour play a part, but outside it, where he has been seen as an almost hapless figure. It sits in stark contrast to his image here as a highly competent administrator and hugely powerful businessman capable of controlling everything and everyone.

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Those fans have reacted to the t-shirts and the insults, to the strength of remarks from UEFA and La Liga, men they do not trust and already didn't like, and got angry.

Many (mostly Madrid fans) have noted -- again, not entirely justifiably -- that the idea "the fans have won" is kind of funny when you look at where the power still lies, when you see the laughable new Champions League structure, something these very teams pushed for. They have pointed accusing fingers at UEFA, at Paris Saint-Germain, at Bayern Munich and at the English clubs, now presented as traitors for walking out on the, er, traitorous walk-out. It has got entrenched and a bit conspiratorial, more than a touch paranoid, which tends to be the way. (And, well, it was quite literally a conspiracy in the first place: theirs). Those fans at least are probably keener for a super league now than they were before.

Tebas, by the way, admits that there's something slightly awkward about being on PSG's side this time. Oh, and he insists that he's not. He will still watch them, still demand FFP and still speak out. But this battle came first.

Will there be punishments? Leaders of coups tend not to get away with it, but this time they might. They probably will, in fact. Domestically, they'll definitely get away with it.

Oddly, the idea of punishment has only really been trained on Madrid, not so much on Barcelona and Atletico. Miguel Angel Gil Marin, Atletico CEO, will probably be forced to back down as vice-president of La Liga, although there seems to be a general acceptance that he took rather than sought a place in the Super League, and did so under some pressure. UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has already said that he felt less disappointed in Laporta than anyone else, that the Barcelona president had little choice, and has not been in the presidency long enough to truly blame. That idea may change, though, as Laporta clings on now to the idea of a Super League, more so in fact than anyone else.

Perez is different, a man long seen as a powerful presence, a long-term plotter who made a bid for power and failed. In all probability though, this will be a question of relations, not regulations.

UEFA have to tread carefully, but they now have a mandate to move things in a different direction, having been handed the power not to appease the biggest clubs any more.

"They've been punished a lot already. There's been a reputational punishment, that's for sure."

Which is a pretty poor punishment.

And what about the clubs? Well, quite. There's still a league title to play for, in the hope of winning and the hope of giving everyone something else to talk about while they continue to machinate.

In Atletico's case, let's never talk about this again, and hope that everyone else soon forgets. In the case of Madrid and Barcelona, it leaves them hanging about waiting, in a club of two that's not actually doing anything. Above all, it leaves them where they were, only even worse off. And, they have now revealed, that was already pretty bad... unless they weren't entirely honest (a wild idea, that one).

"Hold that thought," it says above. That, in case you don't remember now, was this: "We can't wait until 2024: we'll be dead by then."

"We have to do something, or it's over." In the end, they didn't.

Strip it all away -- all the mess and all the noise -- and what's left? Ultimately that appearance on a tacky television show didn't achieve much, leaving the image of a man alone, presenting himself as the saviour, and only one truly lasting message, a devastatingly simple one: we're in trouble. Asked about superstar signings the other day, Perez insisted a little desperately, exclaiming: "there won't be any of that without a super league."

So, no Kylian Mbappe then, he was asked. "I didn't say that," he replied.

Read full article at ESPN

'It’s a joke' - Jurgen Klopp angered by what Liverpool have been asked to do after UEFA decision

Liverpool Echo 24 April, 2021 - 01:01am

Jurgen Klopp has insisted the fight against money-driven football reforms is "not over yet", taking aim at UEFA's planned changes to the Champions League.

Although attempts to form a 12-team breakaway Super League collapsed in the face of an overwhelming backlash from fans, players and managers this week, that did not stop changes to Europe's top-tier competition being voted through.

From the 2024-25 season, the Champions League will switch to a new format featuring a 10-team group stage so as to ensure more regular meetings between the continent's biggest names.

But Klopp has revealed he is not a fan of the new system, saying he does not understand where the extra fixtures will fit in to an already packed schedule.

He said: "The most positive thing is it didn't happen but I'm not now involved that much anymore because I started again focusing on preparing the team.

"But what I've heard, it's not over yet, and I don't mean that the Super League could still happen. Obviously now there are a lot of discussions about other things as well and we could speak a lot about these kinds of things I am just not here to do that always.

"Everybody knows my views on more games and stuff like this and that's why what Pep said yesterday was always my opinion. You cannot just introduce always new competitions.

"So yes the Super League is off the table, good, but the new Champions League is not that you think, 'Oh great, let's just do that!'

"They showed it to me, they called me and I had an hour with UEFA to show the whole idea and I said, 'I don't like it', because there are 10 games instead of six and I have no idea where we shall put them and we will see what happens then.

"Maybe UEFA will ask that the cup competition in England gets cancelled or whatever or that we have only 18 teams in the league or stuff like this.

"You tell that to the Premier League and they will say no way; tell that to the EFL and they will say no way.

"The only people who never get asked are the coaches, the players, and the supporters. I know the supporters think, 'They can play more games, they get paid a lot of money', but we are already on the edge.

"Believe me, all the coaches think the same, the coaches of the teams who play international football. So, if they all think the same, there must be something in it that it could be a little too much.

"Again, UEFA didn't ask us, the Super League didn't ask us, nobody asked us, it's always just play more games. We said before, that's not possible; in this structure at the moment, it's not possible.

"You cannot have 20 teams in the league, two cup competitions, playing 10 international games before Christmas. These things are all impossible.

"But, how I said, we don't get asked, we just have to deliver."

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Klopp has no doubts as to the motivation for the proposed changes, though he hopes to avoid becoming the target of supporters' ire for such decisions in the future.

He added: "I’m not naïve. I know things will be discussed. I have no problem with change. We all wanted to have the new Super League away, but at the same moment we have the new Champions League.

"Who read this concept and said ‘oh, that’s perfect!’? Who tells me now that it’s not about money? It’s a joke!

"I said it before with the Nations League, or when FIFA wanted to have a Club World Cup. They don’t ask, they just introduce it. Why? Money.

"These things happen constantly, but in the end we could always have the perfect moment for us; playing football, enjoying the game. I want to make sure that doesn’t change.

"It started already in Leeds. The Leeds supporters wanted to show us, the team, they were shouting at us that we were greedy, but they need to find somebody they can put their attention on, and it was us.

"Liverpool is much more than this, and that’s what I want to make sure."

Chelsea ‘deeply regret’ joining The Super League in letter of apology to fans

We Ain't Got No History 24 April, 2021 - 01:01am

The apology touches on all the expected notes. Mistakes were made. Deep regret. Fans should’ve been consulted. We did it for the secure future of the club. And so on.

You can read the apology in full on the official website.

What it doesn’t do is throw a scapegoat to the wolves to carry away all their sins. Chairman Bruce Buck has come under fire the most for this sequence of events, but if there is one thing we know about the way Chelsea’s board operates — and we don’t know much! — it’s that no big decisions are made without the approval of Roman Abramovich. Buck would just be the fall-guy; hopefully he and the rest (Abramovich, Granovskaia, Laurence, whoever) do in fact learn from this experience and go about it a better way next time. (Because rest assured, this isn’t the last time something like this will happen, as the CPO will tell you.)

That’s not to say the apology is entirely meaningless or entirely just a standard corporate exercise, but it would’ve been a perfect opportunity for Roman Abramovich to talk personally to the fans.

A letter to supporters of Chelsea FC.

Florentino Pérez tells AS: 'Football is severely damaged'

AS English 24 April, 2021 - 01:01am

Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez, discussed all of the problems surrounding the European Super League in an exclusive interview with AS. Here, we offer a brief advance of that interview - the full unedited version will be published tomorrow, Saturday both online and in the print edition of AS.

Neither argument is true, but like everything, these things get manipulated. It is not a plan which excludes club and nor is it designed to go against other leagues. The Super League project is the best possible solution, and it has been created to help football get out of the crisis. Football is severely damaged because its economy has been ruined and it has to adapt to the new era we are living in. The Super League does not go against domestic competitions and its objective is to ensure that more money is available for all sections of football. The concept is to generate more interest for the games. Nor do I think that the changes which UEFA have made are a real solution to the problem because what has been proposed isn't even an improvement on the current model. Also, we cannot wait until 2024. But in any case, we must have done something badly. We are going to try to turn this around and develop more ideas. Maybe the solution is for the top four teams in every league to play. I don't know, but something needs to be done because today's youth, those between 14 and 24 years of age, are abandoning football because they see it as being boring compared to the other forms of entertainment which they prefer. There are four billion football fans all over the world and half of them are fans of the clubs in the Super League. Football is the only global sport.

Lets look at the data: a recent report by KPMG - in the first three months of the pandemic alone last season, the 12 clubs in the Super League reported losses of 650 million euros. By the end of this season, with the pandemic still ongoing, the losses will be between 2,000 and 2,500 million euros. Girondins [Bordeaux] have recently gone into administration. Either we do something soon or many more clubs will go under.

The reality is that football games which are more interesting, entertaining and competitive will bring in more money. And that will be for everyone, not just for a few, because the national leagues will be worth more. And we will have major amounts for solidarity, which is an important part of the project.

In the democratic Europe which we live in, that is something which I don't think would cross anyone's mind.

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