7:36 PM ET
Alex Kirkland and Rodrigo Faez
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has admitted the European Super League is “on standby” after eight of the 12 clubs involved announced their withdrawal — while blasting the current Champions League format as “obsolete” and claiming the reaction to the project was “as if we’d killed football.”
Perez — one of the proposed breakaway competition’s principal instigators, named as its first chairman — also dismissed fan protests such as those seen outside Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge on Tuesday, saying that “only 40” fans had been involved and suggesting they had been “mobilised” by Super League opponents.
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“I’m sad and disappointed,” Perez told Spanish radio show El Larguero, following Real’s 3-0 win against Cadiz. “We’ve been working on this project for three years… I’ve never seen so much aggression, it’s as if it were orchestrated, it surprised us all. I’ve been in football for 20 years, it’s an aggression I’ve never seen in my life. We’ve had threats, it’s like we killed someone, killed football.”
All six Premier League clubs which had initially signed up for the competition — Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur — pulled out on Tuesday, before Atletico Madrid and Internazionale followed them a day later.
“Someone in the English group didn’t have a lot of interest, and that became contagious,” Perez said. “One of them was never convinced… [The English clubs] left because of the atmosphere. UEFA put on a show. It was like we let off an atomic bomb. Perhaps we haven’t presented and explained it well, but they haven’t given us the opportunity either.”
Regarding the protests outside of Chelsea’s 0-0 Premier League draw with Brighton on Tuesday evening, Perez seemingly inferred that La Liga president Javier Tebas had a role in those demonstrations.
“There were 40 [Chelsea fans] and I can tell you who put them there,” he said. “The same person who gave Cadiz [anti-Super League] t-shirts,” Perez said in a veiled reference to Tebas. “That isn’t normal. Football is a world of values.”
While AC Milan and Juventus released statements on Wednesday admitting that the competition was unlikely to proceed as planned, Real Madrid and Barcelona had remained silent.
“The project is on stand-by,” Perez said. “Juventus haven’t left, Milan neither. We’re all together. Barcelona are reflecting. The first thing we agreed yesterday was to stop, to explain, as we should have done from the start… No-one has paid [a penalty to leave], the 12 are still there, they haven’t left. We signed a binding agreement after a lot of work.”
Perez insisted that the reduction in income caused by the coronavirus pandemic, coupled by waning interest from new generations of fans, had to be met by radical changes to European football beyond those proposed by UEFA in their new Champions League format unveiled on Monday.
“[Big signings] won’t exist without the Super League,” he said. “Not for Madrid or anyone. It’s impossible if the money doesn’t flow.”
Perez denied that Real Madrid — which is a club owned by its members or socios, like Barcelona — should put the plans to a vote in its annual assembly.
“Do you think [the members] are stupid?” he said. “If you tell them every Tuesday or Wednesday you’ll play against Manchester [United] or Barcelona… Won’t they prefer that? Don’t you think the fans would prefer to play against the big clubs from the start? Do you think I have to ask them that?”