Exclusive column: European Super League – How it all fell apart for Europe’s biggest clubs

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This week, in terms of the European Super League, has been incredible – full of surprises and secret moves. In this exclusive column, journalists Fabrizio Romano and Leah Smith look at how each club came to withdraw its name from the process of forming a pioneering European Super League.

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The first clubs to decide to withdraw from the Super League were Manchester City and Chelsea on Tuesday. Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck was called into an emergency meeting with the Blues’ senior men’s first team. Buck confirmed that the Super League news was accurate and was immediately met with a reaction of discontent. There were several first-team players who expressed their dismay which prompted the club’s first major internal concerns. Chelsea announced that they would be withdrawing from the Super League after Manchester City, purely because they were involved in the match later that day against Brighton and Hove Albion. Worth noting though – The Blues were one of the first clubs in the world to express a desire to leave the project. It was Roman Abramovich who considered it a “big mistake” towards the fans. The Chelsea owner is deeply regretful over the club’s decision to sign up to the Super League – Abramovich has exhausted many resources in recent years trying to change the culture and reputation of the club, particularly tackling ongoing issues, such as racism – the progress the Russian has made is something he feels proud of and remains deeply committed to.

Similar to Chelsea, Manchester City also made a quick decision to withdraw their name – the Citizens decided to leave the Super League with a “strong push from the board and the owners”.

In particular, Guardiola’s statements raised the alarm at the board of Man City, sources say that Guardiola, before talking in a press conference personally let the board know that he expected something different from the club after renewing his contract in recent months, certainly not a project like the Super League so “secret” and never presented to the fans. His relationship with Soriano and Begiristain is very strong, so he has decided to take a step back. In fact, despite the Spaniard recently teaming up with super agency SEG, although there were initial questions raised – there are no plans for him to depart the club, now, or in the near future.

In terms of Tottenham Hotspur, it is important to underline that Jose Mourinho’s recent sacking is absolutely not linked to the Super League but only to results. Daniel Levy believed in the Super League project but immediately agreed to back out when the other clubs suggested withdrawing.

Liverpool’s decision to withdraw came when it became increasingly more apparent that several other top clubs had either pulled out or were on the verge of pulling out. The owner’s decision was made simple in the end – vocal behind the scenes, manager Jurgen Klopp, as well as several senior players more than made their feelings known.

Elsewhere, Manchester United, arguably seen as one of the main driving forces behind the absurd Super League proposal, were one of the clubs who left their withdrawal later than rivals Manchester City and Chelsea. Although there is no debating that members of the club’s most senior hierarchy were in favour of a proposed Super League – fan discontent as well as intense criticism coming from several influential first-team players, including captain Harry Maguire, forced the Red Devils’ hand and left them with no choice but to withdraw. The decision to withdraw was made before Chelsea kicked off against Brighton and Hove Albion with an agreement reached to officially announce their withdrawal later that evening.

Another club with a decidedly particular position is Juventus. Alexander Ceferin, UEFA president, spoke of “snakes” regarding Juventus president Andrea Agnelli guilty of not having warned him despite their good relationship. Sources assure that Agnelli will not resign in the coming days, it must be remembered that the Agnelli family is the owner of Juventus and so he is not simply the president. Agnelli had been working on the Super League project personally for years.

Inter Milan was the first Italian team to leave the project on Tuesday evening, after the meeting with the other Super League clubs, president Steven Zhang made it known that “he didn’t have more interest in this Super League because of the club’s values ” – a concept shared by the whole board.

The situation at AC Milan is different. Florentino Perez still considers them in the Super League because no contrary decisions have been communicated. But the problem is linked to two executives. The former Arsenal executive today at Milan, Ivan Gazidis has been personally involved with Agnelli for years in the Super League and sources assure that AC Milan was one of the most convinced clubs in the Super League as a general project and still hopes it can be remodelled in the future for the improvement of European football. Paolo Maldini, on the other hand, thinks completely differently, the legend of the club and head of the technical area who apologised to the fans – incredibly, Maldini has never been warned of the timing of this project and of the press release despite working with an operational role in the AC Milan still today. Maldini is not happy with the management of the situation, he is totally against a system that is not meritocratic.

In Spain, Atletico Madrid left the project first because the feeling of part of the board was that the fans had reacted very badly – not only the concept of Super League, but also the “support” towards Real Madrid’s Florentino Perez who was the mastermind behind such an “elite project” – a club born with completely different values. There were emergency talks held among Atletico Madrid’s senior hierarchy following the visible outrage displayed among fans in England, particularly outside of Chelsea’s home ground, Stamford Bridge.


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