"Profit-driven" projects like the European Super League threaten the existing structure and mission of sport, according to International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach.

Bach appeared at the UEFA Congress in Montreux, Switzerland on Tuesday.

The furore caused by 12 of Europe's leading clubs announcing a breakaway competition that would see them leave existing structures in place under UEFA and FIFA continues to cause intense debate.

Bach warned that self-interest and commercialism would come at a huge cost for European sport.

He insisted such an approach was not what was needed as society rebuilds as it emerges from the coronavirus pandemic.

"We have to realise that this European sport model is under threat today," Bach said. 

"In fact, the very existence of the values, solidarity and volunteer-based model is under threat. 

"It is challenged by a purely profit-driven approach that ignores the intrinsic values the social mission of sport and the real needs of the post-coronavirus world. 

"It is under threat because the social mission of sports organisations is losing ground to the purely profit-oriented goals of commercial sport providers and investors. 

"If everything is only looked at from a business perspective. If only the economic rules are applied to measure the impact of sport on society then the social mission of sport is lost.

"In this polarising environment narrow self-interest and egotism have been gaining ground over solidarity, shared values and common rules. 

"We can only address the challenges of the post-coronavirus world in solidarity. This means for us solidarity within sports organisations and solidarity among sports organisations."

At the same conference, FIFA president Gianni Infantino condemned the European Super League.

Infantino warned clubs involved they "cannot be half in or half out" and must fully commit to the breakaway competition.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino condemned the European Super League as he warned clubs involved they "cannot be half in or half out" and must fully commit to the breakaway competition.

Twelve elite clubs announced on Sunday their plans to launch a tournament to rival the Champions League in which they would be assured of qualification.

Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United, among others, would compete in the Super League every season without risk of demotion.

The news has prompted a strong reaction throughout the football world, with governing bodies, rivals clubs, players, coaches and fans critical of the idea and its anti-competitive format.

An initial FIFA statement on Sunday read: "FIFA can only express its disapproval to a 'closed European breakaway league' outside of the international football structures."

Infantino, FIFA president since 2016, had not subsequently discussed the Super League in public until Tuesday's UEFA Congress, however.

But he made clear in Montreux, Switzerland, that the clubs involved could not continue in their domestic leagues, as proposed, while bans from international football for players at those clubs have been threatened.

"At FIFA, we can only strongly disapprove the creation of the Super League, which is a closed shop, which is a breakaway from the current institutions, from the leagues, from the associations, from UEFA, and from FIFA," Infantino said.

"There is a lot to throw away for maybe a short-term financial gain of some. People need to think very carefully. They need to reflect and they need to assume responsibility.

"If some elect to go their own way, then they must live with the consequences of their choice. They are responsible for their choice.

"Concretely, this means either you are in or you are out. You cannot be half in or half out."

If you are a football fan there is simply no escaping the controversy caused by the announcement 12 teams have signed up to form a breakaway European Super League.

Talk of such a competition is nothing new, rumours have been swirling for years, but the furore caused has still been widespread with pundits, players and fans alike united in their disapproval.

UEFA and the major European governing bodies and leagues have vowed to do all they can to kill the proposals and huge sanctions have been threatened if the teams go ahead with the league.

But part of the debate has also centred around the credentials of some of the teams who have been invited to participate, with six from the Premier League, three from LaLiga and three from Serie A agreeing to join. Below we have reviewed each of the 12 clubs involved.

THE 'BIG SIX' FROM THE PREMIER LEAGUE

Arsenal

Arsenal's place on the list comes with the club having failed to qualify for the Champions League since the 2016-17 season, the penultimate year of Arsene Wenger's long reign. The Gunners appear unlikely to make a return via the domestic route this season, as they sit well adrift of the top four in the Premier League. However, they are still in the Europa League, with a semi-final tie against Spanish side Villarreal – coached by former Arsenal boss Unai Emery, no less – to come.

Founded: October 1886 (initially as Dial Square)

Trophies won: 
First Division/Premier League: 13 times (last time was in 2003-04)
FA Cup: 14 times
EFL Cup: 2 times
UEFA Cup Winners' Cup: Once

Social media following: 
Twitter: 17.3m
Instagram: 19.2m
Facebook: 38.3m

Chelsea

The outlook for Chelsea changed dramatically in 2003, when Roman Abramovich became the new owner. Prior to the Russian's arrival, the Blues had one the top-flight title just once. They have been crowned Premier League champions five times since, however, and also enjoyed Champions League success in 2012. In overcoming Porto across two legs, they have reached the semi-finals of the competition this term for the first time since 2014.

Founded: March 1905

Trophies won:
First Division/Premier League: Six times 
FA Cup: Eight times
League Cup: Five times
Champions League: Once
Europa League: Twice 
UEFA Cup Winners' Cup: Twice
UEFA Super Cup: Once

Social media following: 
Twitter - 16.6m
Instagram - 25.9m
Facebook - 49.4m

Liverpool 

The Reds have a storied history, but there has been success in recent seasons under the guidance of Jurgen Klopp. No British club has won Europe's premier club competition more times than Liverpool, while the 2019-20 Premier League title triumph finally ended a 30-year wait to get back on their perch at home. However, they only featured in the Champions League once between the 2009-10 and 2017-18 campaigns, while their hopes of repeating their success of 2019 since lifting the trophy in Madrid have resulted in exits to Spanish opponents who also involved in the Super League. 

Founded: June 1892

Trophies won:
First Division/Premier League: 19 times
FA Cup: Seven times
League Cup: Eight times
Champions League: Six times
UEFA Cup: Three times
UEFA Cup Winners' Cup: Twice
UEFA Super Cup: Four times
FIFA Club World Cup: Once

Social media following: 
Twitter - 17m
Instagram - 30.5m
Facebook - 39.1m

Manchester City

The Premier League champions in waiting are on course to claim a third title with Pep Guardiola at the helm. However, City slipped down to the third tier of the English football pyramid as recently as 1998, while only became one of the powerhouses of the domestic game following the arrival of a new owner in Sheikh Mansour. They first appeared in the Champions League in 2011-12 and are yet to get beyond the semi-final stage, meaning the Cup Winners' Cup success in 1970 remains the club's only European trophy.

Founded: April 1894

Trophies won:
First Division/Premier League: Six times
FA Cup: Six times
League Cup: Seven times
European Cup Winners' Cup: Once

Social media following:
Twitter - 9.5m
Instagram - 23.3m
Facebook - 40.2m 

Manchester United

United were the dominant force in the Premier League era under Alex Ferguson, winning the title 13 times to overtake Liverpool's record tally. However, since their legendary manager departed, the Red Devils have not managed to add to their overall tally as 20-time top-flight champions. There was FA Cup success under Louis van Gaal - who was then sacked - and an EFL-Europa League double during Jose Mourinho's time in charge at Old Trafford. In the Champions League, United have only gone as far as the last eight since losing the 2011 final to a Lionel Messi-inspired Barcelona.

Founded: 1902

Trophies won:
First Division/Premier League - 20 times
FA Cup - 12 times
League Cup - Five times
European Cup/Champions League - Three times
Europa League - Once
European Cup Winners' Cup - Once
European Super Cup - Once
FIFA Club World Cup - Once

Social media following:
Twitter - 25.1m
Instagram - 40.1m
Facebook - 73.2m

Tottenham

Now searching for a new manager following the dismissal of Jose Mourinho less than 24 hours after confirming their Super League involvement, Spurs' best-ever finish in a Premier League season came in 2016-17 when second behind champions Chelsea. There was a Champions League final appearance in 2019 too, though they missed out on glory when losing 1-0 to Liverpool. Indeed, Tottenham have not secured silverware since the League Cup triumph in 2008, while the most recent of their two top-flight league titles was way back in 1960-61.

Founded: 1882

Trophies won:
First Division - twice
FA Cup - eight times
League Cup - four times
UEFA Cup - twice
European Cup Winners' Cup - once

Social media following:
Twitter - 5.8m
Instagram - 10.2m
Facebook - 22.5m

THE REMAINING CLUBS INVOLVED

Atletico Madrid

A huge club in their own right, of that there is no doubt. But the last of Atleti's LaLiga title wins came in 2014, and that was only their second since 1977. Three times runners-up for Europe's greatest continental prize but as yet there has been no Champions League triumph for Atletico Madrid. While Diego Simeone has overseen a great period at Atleti, and the club has muscled into the fight with their more illustrious Clasico rivals, it should certainly be no shoo-in that Atleti deserve an automatic spot at this table.

Founded: April 1903

Trophies won:
LaLiga: 10 times
Copa del Rey: 10 times
Supercopa de Espana: Twice
Europa League: Three times
UEFA Cup Winners' Cup: Once
UEFA Super Cup: Three times

Social media following:
Twitter – 4.9m (Spanish account)
Instagram – 11.1m
Facebook - 13m

Barcelona

Another LaLiga heavyweight, boasting the talents of Lionel Messi of course, that would certainly not be out of place in a Super League, both in terms of history and trophies won. Barcelona's well-documented financial issues off the pitch may also offer a further explanation for the desire for a mind-boggling windfall. While Barca were beaten to LaLiga by Clasico rivals Madrid last term, they have already collected silverware this time around in the form of the Copa del Rey. Champions League success has not arrived since 2015 but Barca's credentials stand up to scrutiny.

Founded: March 1899

Trophies won:
LaLiga: 26 times
Copa del Rey: 31 times
Supercopa de Espana: 13 times
Champions League/European Cup: Five times
UEFA Cup Winners' Cup: Four times
UEFA Super Cup: Five times
Club World Cup: Three times

Social media following:
Twitter – 15m (Spanish account)
Instagram – 95.9m
Facebook - 103m

Inter

The Milan giants are a club rich in history, who have scaled the heights in European football.  But also another who have struggled to reach such past glories until this term – with Antonio Conte's side appearing primed to win a first Serie A title since 2010, the year Jose Mourinho oversaw a famous treble also comprising the Coppa Italia and Champions League. While some would dispute Inter's place in a Super League, the signs are the Nerazzurri are on the way back to consistently challenging among the elite.

Founded: March 1908

Trophies won:
Serie A: 18 times
Coppa Italia: Seven times
Supercoppa Italiana: Seven times
Champions League/European Cup: Three times
UEFA Cup: Three times
Club World Cup: Once

Social media following:
Twitter – 2.3m (Italian account)
Instagram – 6.5m
Facebook – 28m

Juventus

The Old Lady of Italian football. With 36 Serie A titles to their name, Juventus are the most successful club in the history of the Italian top flight. While the Bianconeri have not won the Champions League since 1996, they have been runners-up in 2015 and 2017 and no one can doubt the grandeur of this historic club. The past decade in Italy has been dominated by Juventus who have won nine titles in a row, but their quest for 10 has hit a bump as a side spearheaded by the evergreen Cristiano Ronaldo sits fourth in the maiden campaign of Andrea Pirlo.

Founded: November 1897

Trophies won:
Serie A: 36 times
Coppa Italia: 13 times
Supercoppa Italiana: Nine times
Champions League/European Cup: Twice
UEFA Cup/Europa League: Three times
UEFA Super Cup: Twice

Social media following:
Twitter – 9.1m (Italian account)
Instagram – 48.2m
Facebook – 45m

Milan

Once of the most revered and loved teams across the globe, the Rossoneri have fallen on hard times in recent years. Only Madrid can boast more than Milan's seven European/Champions League victories, while many of the all-time greats have donned the famous red and black jersey. But you have to go back to 2007 for the last time Milan were crowned champions of Europe, while 10 years have past since they lifted the Serie A title. Indeed, they have not even played in the Champions League since the 2013-14 campaign – albeit Stefano Pioli's men appeared destined to return to the competition this term.

Founded: 1899

Trophies won:
Serie A: 18 times
Coppa Italia: Five times
Supercoppa Italiana: Seven times
Champions League/European Cup: Seven times
European Cup Winners' Cup: Twice
UEFA Super Cup: Five times
Club World Cup: Once

Social media following:
Twitter – 7.7m
Instagram – 9.7m
Facebook – 24m

Real Madrid

While some of the teams in this controversial process may raise a few eyebrows, there is little doubt a club with the prestige of Real Madrid would not be involved. Record winners of the European Cup/Champions League on 13 occasions (the last of which coming as recently as 2018, the third in succession under Zinedine Zidane), and 34 times winners of LaLiga (including last season) there is little doubt Los Blancos are an established part of the European elite. This term, they are into the semi-finals of the Champions League and sit second in a tight race for the top flight title in Spain.

Founded: March 1902 (initially as Madrid football club)

Trophies won:
LaLiga: 34 times
Copa del Rey: 19 times
Supercopa de Espana: 11 times
Champions League/European Cup: 13 times
UEFA Cup: Twice
UEFA Super Cup: Four times
Club World Cup: Four times

Social media following:
Twitter – 36.8m (Spanish account)
Instagram – 97.1m
Facebook – 110m

France, Spain or Germany?

Eduardo Camavinga has admirers following his exploits for Rennes in Ligue 1.

Some of Europe's biggest clubs are interested, but could he be set for Bavaria?

 

TOP STORY – CAMAVINGA WANTED IN GERMANY

Bayern Munich are hoping to sign Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga, according to France Football.

Camavinga is unwilling to extend his Rennes contract and the 18-year-old has been linked with Real Madrid, Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain and Arsenal.

Borussia Monchengladbach's Florian Neuhaus is also on Bayern's list, though the Bundesliga champions reportedly feel Camavinga could be better value for money.

 

ROUND-UP

- Who will permanently replace Jose Mourinho as Tottenham head coach following his sacking on Monday? Football Italia claims Spurs have contacted former Juventus, Chelsea and Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri. The Daily Mail, however, reports RB Leipzig's Julian Nagelsmann is Tottenham's top candidate.

- La Razon says West Ham are leading the race to sign Sevilla forward Youssef En-Nesyri, who has also been linked with United and Liverpool.

PSG are the most likely suitors for Arsenal full-back Hector Bellerin, according to Sport. Bellerin is likely to leave the Gunners and he has been linked to Barcelona.

- Sport says Barca's plans depend on Lionel Messi's future. Messi is out of contract at the end of the season, but president Joan Laporta is keen to re-sign the superstar amid reported interest from PSG and Manchester City. It comes as Barca target Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland, who has also been linked with rivals Real Madrid, United, City, Chelsea, Liverpool, PSG and Juventus. Lyon captain Memphis Depay, City's Sergio Aguero and Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum are also reportedly wanted at Camp Nou.

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez said he will do everything possible so the LaLiga giants do not lose their "rightful place" as one of the world's leading clubs amid strong links with Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe and Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland.

Madrid have long been linked with PSG's Mbappe, while in-demand Dortmund forward Haaland has emerged as a transfer target in the Spanish capital.

While discussing the new European Super League, which he is chairman of, Perez addressed the speculation regarding Mbappe and Haaland.

"The fans always ask me to buy Mbappe," Perez told El Chiringuito. "My answer? I say: don't worry... the truth is that he is a good player, yes.

"I've never talked to Mbappe. At least now... I don't know what's going to happen to his contract with PSG."

On Haaland, who has also been linked with Barcelona, Manchester City, Manchester United, PSG, Chelsea, Liverpool and Juventus, Perez added: "Haaland's father has visited our training ground Valdebebas, yes.

"Everyone has always had the same reaction: never seen anything like this.

"Haaland and Mbappe are two excellent players but what [Lionel] Messi and [Cristiano] Ronaldo have done is incredible."

Perez, though, ruled out a reunion with the club's all-time leading goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo in Madrid.

Ronaldo – who left Madrid for Juventus in 2018 – has been tipped to depart Turin and a Los Blancos comeback has emerged as a possible option for the five-time Ballon d'Or winner.

But Perez said: "Cristiano Ronaldo will not come back at Real Madrid.

"It does not makes sense, he has a contract with Juventus. I love him a lot, he has given us a lot."

Perez was also asked about the future of Madrid captain Sergio Ramos, who is out of contract at the end of the season.

The 35-year-old Ramos is yet to re-sign at the Santiago Bernabeu amid reported interest from the likes of United, PSG and Chelsea.

"I love Sergio Ramos, but we are in a very bad financial situation at Real Madrid," added Perez, who insisted Vinicius Junior is not for sale. "Nobody puts money into this club.

"Will he leave the club? I didn't say that... many things can happen. We will think about it at the end of the season."

Inter great Walter Zenga believes the European Super League will go ahead despite strong opposition and criticism as the former Italy goalkeeper had his say on the "big mess".

The 'big six' from the Premier League – Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham – have collaborated with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Inter, Juventus and Milan to reveal plans for a new midweek club competition to rival UEFA's Champions League.

Those founding members would automatically qualify each season no matter where they finished in their respective domestic leagues.

UEFA and the European Club Association (ECA) have condemned the new competition, while FIFA has also disapproved of the move as fans and pundits continue to slam the breakaway league.

Regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, Zenga – who amassed 473 appearances for Inter, winning two UEFA Cup titles, the Serie A trophy and Supercoppa Italiana during his time at San Siro – said he is not a fan of the Super League.

"It's a big mess," the 60-year-old – who emerged from Inter's youth team in 1978 before leaving the club permanently in 1994 – told Stats Perform News.

"I think that I read one interview about [former Manchester United manager Alex] Ferguson that he said that he came from one passion football like when he was young, child play on the street and run over the dreams and everything and now probably the Super League can destroy the oldest small club like he mentioned that he won the Europa league with Aberdeen a small club.

"I don't think it's going to be okay for football, it looks like it has become a private club."

"I think that every club they have own problems now because of the covid situation," said Zenga, who was last head coach of Serie A side Cagliari in August last year. "We can just say our point of view that's just opinion it's not the truth no? We don't know what are the big problems inside some clubs, we don't know why they want to create a Super League probably to save the money or something like this.

"I think the only thing in this situation was thinking about the commercial and how to make more money and everything. Then honestly if you ask me do I like the Super League I say no. If you ask me about why one club takes a decision to approach these things I say I don't know because I'm not involved inside a club, I don't know the problems this is very difficult to understand."

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin branded the planned Super League as a "disgraceful, self-serving proposal" fuelled by greed, as well as confirming players from the 12 breakaway clubs involved will be banned from international football.

Madrid president and European Super League chairman Florentino Perez insisted the primary aim of the competition is to "save football".

When asked if there was any turning back following Sunday's initial announcement, Zenga – named the IFFHS World's Best Goalkeeper for three consecutive years in 1989, 1990 and 1991 – replied: "I think that now after UEFA send a letter to everybody I think it is very difficult because it is [not just] one big problem to solve.

"I don't think so I think the clubs go for themself. I don't think so after this, I think the Super League continues."

Florentino Perez insists the primary aim of the European Super League is to "save football" after the breakaway competition came in for relentless and vitriolic criticism in the 24 hours after it was announced.

The Super League launched its competition website late on Sunday after a day of speculation, with Perez named as chairman of the new competition.

Madrid, fellow LaLiga giants Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, the Premier League's 'big six' – Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City, Tottenham and Arsenal – and Juventus, Milan and Inter are all on board, with founding members set to benefit from an initial windfall of €3.5billion.

Nevertheless, Perez told El Chiringuito TV that he felt there were higher ideals at play than mere greed.

"The biggest clubs in England, Italy and Spain have found a solution to the very difficult situation that football is experiencing," he said.

"Real Madrid in just two season have lost €400m and that's just Real Madrid. When you only have income from television, you understand the solution is to create games that are more competitive and more attractive and that can be seen around the world.

"We decided, in midweek, instead of the Champions League we could have a Super League with more matches.

"Football has to evolve. It is losing interest. We have to think why 16-24 year olds are losing interest. There are bad quality matches and other platforms for entertainment.

"We have to make it more attractive. It is not something for the rich. We do this to save football."

Perez rejected the criticism that the league was creating a closed shop, due to the intention to allow five teams to enter on "sporting merit" and bring the total number of competitors up to 20, alongside 15 founding clubs.

He also has no concerns over Madrid, their opponents Chelsea and fellow semi-finalists City being expelled from this season's Champions League, nor UEFA and FIFA banning Super League players from taking place in international tournaments.

"Every player can be calm because that's not going to happen," he said.

"Real Madrid will not be kicked out of the Champions League. Nor City, nor anyone else.

"It's not going to happen. I don’t want to get into the legal reasons but it's not going to happen. Legally it's impossible."

Despite the historical animosity between Madrid and Barcelona, Perez said it was easy to convince recently elected Camp Nou president Joan Laporta to take part in the project.

He added: "Games between the big clubs are the most attractive, they generate the most money. I don't think the smaller ones are more attractive.

"There are national competitions people don't even know the name of. Football as it is cannot continue."

The European Club Association (ECA) has condemned the proposed Super League while announcing a new executive committee including representatives from Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich.

A 12-team group including some of European football's biggest names confirmed plans for a breakaway competition on Sunday, with those founding members guaranteed to be involved every year regardless of their domestic performances.

The competition has received widespread criticism from governing bodies, former players and fan groups alike.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin branded the European Super League as a "disgraceful, self-serving proposal" fuelled by greed, as well as confirming players from the clubs involved will be banned from playing international football.

After a meeting of its executive board on Monday, the ECA made clear it remains the only "legitimate and fully recognised voice" for Europe's leading teams.

"The board was unanimous in its condemnation of the actions of the departing members, which it holds to be self-serving and to the detriment of the game's wellbeing and in clear opposition to ECA's values," a statement read.

"We believe that European club football can be reformed from within the system to achieve the collective best interests of all stakeholders in the game.

"The board reiterated ECA's clear position as the only legitimate and fully recognised voice of the leading clubs in Europe and, as such, has taken a number of decisions to ensure that it is able to continue to perform its role efficiently and effectively."

The ECA also announced PSG chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi will be involved on a new-look executive committee, as well as Bayern representative Michael Gerlinger. Neither of the clubs were involved in the European Super League.

They will be joined by Edwin van der Sar (Ajax), Dariusz Mioduski (Legia Warszawa), Aki Riihilahti (HJK Helsinki) and Michele Centenaro (the ECA's independent board member).

Meanwhile, UEFA announced plans for Champions League expansion on Monday, the tournament set to see an increase to 36 teams from the 2024-25 season onwards.

"We are pleased that UEFA club competitions reform has reached this important milestone," the ECA said on the structural changes to the competition. 

"The agreement of new competition formats will create a greater number of high quality, relevant, exciting European matches for fans and increase participation for clubs at all levels - principles and targets that ECA laid out back in the Spring of 2019 when we embarked on this reform journey. 

"Moving forward, the entire ECA executive board's focus will be on pursuing efforts to conclude arrangements with UEFA around its renewed relationship post-2024 as we look to shape European club football for the years ahead."

Bayern CEO and honorary ECA chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who is to replace Andrea Agnelli as one of two representatives on the UEFA executive committee, made clear that the Bundesliga club support the revamped Champions League structure.

"Bayern has not been involved in the plans for creating a Super League. We are convinced that the current structure in football guarantees a reliable foundation," Rummenigge said. 

"Bayern welcomes the reforms of the Champions League because we believe they are the right step to take for the development of European football. The modified group stage will contribute to an increase in excitement and the emotional experience in the competition.

"I do not believe the Super League will solve the financial problems of European clubs that have arisen as result of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Rather, all clubs in Europe should work in solidarity to ensure that the cost structure, especially players' salaries and agents' fees, are brought in line with revenues, to make all of European football more rational."

As claim, counter-claim and another news bombshell thudded into one another regarding the purported launch of a European Super League on Sunday, many football supporters and those involved with the game expressed wishes for a simpler time.

One of those was Mark Pougatch, esteemed anchor of ITV's UK coverage of England matches, who was probably wondering what side Gareth Southgate might be able to put out given UEFA's threats to ban players from the 12 Super League clubs from representing their national teams.

Pougatch asked whether the chairmen of Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham in the 1980s and 1990 – local figures rooted in their communities – would have let such tawdry antics occur on their watch.

A glance at his Twitter replies showed the consensus was, "Probably, yeah".

One claimed Peter Swales, the vainglorious and hubristic ex-Manchester City chairman, would have sold his kidneys to take part in a Super League. Martin Edwards, his Manchester United contemporary whose family ploughed their fortune from butchery into the club, would probably have bought Swales' kidneys and put them into sausages.

Gallows humour among supporters often speaks football's more enduring truths and this was no different. Sunday's cloth-eared land grab from England's 'big six', Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Milan, Juventus and Inter is shocking because of its scant regard for the sporting competition all of them pretend to crave. But it is entirely in line with the actions of those clubs over the past three decades, which have always spoken louder than their vapid platitudes.

Edwards, Swales and their contemporaries were around at the time super league talk first emerged, when gate sharing in English football was abolished in 1983 and the so-called Heathrow Agreement gave half of the television rights money available to the top division at the expense of the other three in 1985.

These were all precursors to the 1992 Premier League breakaway, which enshrined the basic principle that has driven all the developments of the past 24 hours: the more successful a team is, the greater share of the game's wealth it deserves at the expense of all others, widening gap between the haves and the have-nots.

A shrinking privileged few see how cold it is outside of their exclusive set and have since taken every measure they can to ensure they do not fall out of that elite. What better way to lock that down than to come up with a closed shop drowning in hedge-fund billions? The Super League is as much a natural conclusion as it is a radical departure.

But what now?

Baddies and baddies

The multi-layered PR disaster of the Super League roll out, not to mention the threat of endless litigation, means understandably upset fans should still have confidence the vision of Florentino Perez and his allies will not prevail.

But picking good guys and bad guys in this scenario is a selection process as tricky as sending a Spain team to a European Championship without Barca, Madrid or Atleti players.

We've seen numerous examples over recent years of fans being played off against one another in sinister fashion. Take the framing of new-monied City and Chelsea, trying to unseat the deserving greats of English football – United, Arsenal and Liverpool (sorry, Tottenham) – with their ill-gotten gains. Oil money and plastic clubs versus institutions with values, doing things the "proper" way.

Turns out they are all the same side of an utterly fetid coin. They deserve complete contempt and suspicion at all times. They have proved they do not care about you or your club and you never owe them your obedience.

So who are the goodies? Absolutely not UEFA.

Aleksander Ceferin spoke with impressive passion, clarity and controlled anger when addressing the challenge to his organisation and its tournaments on Monday. But UEFA's new Champions League format is a horrible pile of bloated rubbish.

There will be more games, more dead rubbers, less jeopardy and more guarantees – in financial and sporting terms – for the elite. It's the closed shop of the Super League with a few of the windows and doors left open. Probably as well to let out the smell.

UEFA are the far lesser of two evils here but unquestioningly backing them as righteous saviours and guardians of football is a dead end.

The Premier League's lost generation

Similarly, concern proclaimed for "match-going fans" should not be allowed to pass by in England without action being taken once the dust settles.

High ticket prices have served to effectively leave a generation of fans behind in the Premier League. In the 2017 BBC Price of Football study, 82 per cent of 18-24 year olds said the cost of tickets was an obstacle to them attending matches.

Within that context, Monday's survey for BBC Sport by polling company Savanta ComRes that showed 48 per cent of 18-34-year-old fans were "happy" about the Super League plans – against an "unhappy" 18 per cent - should come as little surprise.

For all the understandable outrage among those with an emotional stake in the traditions of the game, there is an entire demographic who love and consume football but feel little connection to the "fabric" of its century-old culture that has failed to lend them so much as a stray thread.

The breakaway clubs are motivated primarily by vast financial gain, but a younger generation left to find their own way into the game by the establishment – in thrall to online clips, video games and viral superstars – will have come into their calculations.

German football's stronger connection to its fan culture, demonstrated both by more affordable ticket prices and the 50+1 rule enshrining member ownership, feels like a huge factor in Bayern Munich not being along for the joyride.

Much as they might feel taken for a ride by various stakeholders, supporters will still be influential over the direction of travel to come and those chastising the Super League must now do more than pay lip service. Slash admission prices and open up the people's game once more.

"We came from Cheltenham"

Those fan groups already engaged are starting to mobilise and it will be interesting to hear how the biggest names in the sport react, especially in light of UEFA's hardline threats that seemingly include immediate Champions League expulsion. Without them this cannot happen.

Speaking to Kicker in 2019, Jurgen Klopp said: "I hope there will never be this Super League. I also don't feel like my club has to be seeded [in the Champions League].

"Of course, it's economically important, but why should we create a system where Liverpool can play against Real Madrid for 10 years in a row? Who wants to see this every year?"

Pep Guardiola has also rubbished the idea to which his club has now committed to – although City are among those involved yet to issue a public statement on the matter – and spoke warmly of the value of football's pyramid structure before an FA Cup tie at Cheltenham Town this season, when his players had to get changed in the stadium bar at Whaddon Road.

"Everyone comes from the lower divisions or do you believe when we are under-16 or under-18 we fly in private jets?" he said. "We play in these stadiums all our careers, we don't play in big stadiums all the time, we came from [places like] Cheltenham. People cannot forget that and it is a pleasure to play there.

"We were there many times and we changed in bars as boys and we play football with incredible joy. We love this game and we change in these changing rooms for most of our careers most of the time."

Guardiola depicted a romance entirely absent from the Super League, UEFA's reforms and, in truth, most of his employers' operations. But for all the distance between the millionaire superstars of the modern game and the supporters shown such contempt by the hedge fund class, there lies a common bond.

Klopp stood by his previously stated position ahead of Liverpool's game with Leeds United amid fan protests outside Elland Road. He and Guardiola will speak again about this serious fracture in the sport over the coming hours and days and their words will carry considerable weight. The Super League owners have used the uncertainty of the global pandemic to push their agenda, but the tragedy and tumult of the past year has also shown how much power still lies with players and fans.

It can be seen before every single Premier League game, when players continue to take a knee in protest against police brutality. It was there when Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson led a fundraising effort for the NHS after he and his fellow professionals were goaded by a UK government that Marcus Rashford continues to hold to account over child poverty.

It was also felt by would-be Super League clubs, when City and United were persuaded to donate £100,000 to foodbanks in Greater Manchester amid rising demand due to the pandemic. Or when Liverpool and Tottenham U-turned on their risible decision to furlough non-playing staff.

Players and fans, still the heart and soul of the game we love, might have to shout a little louder this time, but they can definitely be heard. It feels like a moment to line up alongside one another as opposed to backing the least-bad option in a pin-striped suit stuffed with self-interest and empty promises.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has branded the planned European Super League as a "disgraceful, self-serving proposal" fuelled by greed, as well as confirming players from the 12 breakaway clubs involved will be banned from international football.

The 'big six' from the Premier League have collaborated with Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Inter, Juventus, Milan and Real Madrid to reveal plans for a new midweek club competition.

Those founder members would automatically qualify each season no matter where they finished in their respective domestic leagues.

Speaking during a conference call to reveal "dynamic" changes to UEFA's current European club tournaments, Ceferin made clear how results on the pitch should always decide who participates, rather than a "closed shop run by a greedy few".

"We began this project to modernise the competitions in 2019 judged by the principle it should be: an exercise in inclusive leadership," Ceferin told the media.

"At the start of the process, we were driven by a desire to help all UEFA club competitions into something even better than the spectacles we know today. With the unanimous support of the European Club Association (ECA), we consulted widely across the game.

"Teams will always qualify and compete in our competitions on merit, not a closed shop run by a greedy, select few. That was our decision from the beginning.

"Any club, any fans should still have the dream of participating in the Champions League based on their results on the pitch."

The European Super League plan has come in for widespread criticism and Ceferin did not hold back in his own assessment, as well making clear the ramifications it will have for players outside of club football.

"I must address the extraordinary situation that has developed on the eve of this announcement," he continued.

"I cannot stress more strongly at this moment that UEFA and the footballing world stand united against the disgraceful, self-serving proposal in the past 24 hours from a select few clubs in Europe that are fuelled purely by greed above all else.

"Not only is the football world united, but society is also united, governments are united. It's part of our culture – we are all united against this nonsense of a project.

"We have the English FA, Spanish Federation, Italian Federation, Premier League, LaLiga, Serie A, and also FIFA and all our 55 member associations unanimous in opposition to this cynical plan that are completely against what football should be.

"Our game has become the greatest sport in the world based on open competition, integrity and sporting merit. We cannot allow, and we will not allow that to change, ever. Never.

"As previously announced by FIFA and the six confederations, the players that play in the teams that might play in the closed league, will be banned from playing in the World Cup and the Euros. They will not be able to represent their national teams in any matches."

UEFA announced plans for Champions League expansion that will see an increase to 36 teams as the present format -  whereby there are eight pools of four – will be scrapped.

Instead, each team will play 10 group games before advancing to a last-16 knockout format. The changes are due to be introduced for the 2024-25 season.

"Whoever thinks the Super League and UEFA are all about money is not right. Super League is only about money, money of the dozen – I don't want to call them the dirty dozen," Ceferin said. 

"UEFA is about developing football, about financing what should be financed, that our football and our culture survives. Some people do not understand it.

"The reforms preserve the value of the domestic game by retaining the principle that domestic performance should be the key to qualification – this should, and will not, ever change.

"The European game is the greatest success story of the modern sport, and there's a reason why – because of its pyramid, it's long history. We are constantly adapting the European competition to ensure it is more and more interesting, more and more modern, but the principles cannot change.

"Solidarity is something that cannot change, but for some people solidarity doesn't exist, unity doesn't exist. The only thing that exists is their pockets."

Ander Herrera has spoken out against the planned creation of a European Super League, describing clubs involved as "the rich stealing what the people created".

In a strongly worded post on Twitter, the Paris Saint-Germain midfielder expressed how it was pivotal in football for all clubs to be able to retain the dream of competing at the highest level.

The 'big six' from the Premier League have combined with Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid from LaLiga, plus Serie A clubs Inter, Juventus and Milan, to propose the introduction of a breakaway competition to rival UEFA's Champions League model.

The proposal sees those 12 clubs joined by eight more to play in two leagues across a span of midweek fixtures, followed by a two-legged knockout format to decide the eventual winners.

Those founding members – it is expected that number could eventually rise to 15 – will qualify each season regardless of their domestic league position, much to Herrera's disappointment.

"I fell in love with popular football, with the football of the fans, with the dream of seeing the team of my heart compete against the greatest," Herrera wrote.

"If this European Super League advances, those dreams are over, the illusions of the fans of the teams that are not giants of being able to win on the field competing in the best competitions will end.

"I love football and I cannot remain silent about this, I believe in an improved Champions League, but not in the rich stealing what the people created, which is nothing other than the most beautiful sport on the planet."

PSG, along with 2019-20 Champions League winners Bayern Munich, have not signed up to be involved in the Super League.

Herrera moved to the French capital after five years with Manchester United, having helped the Red Devils win the Europa League in 2017. He also featured for his current employers in last season's Champions League final, while PSG are through to the last four this term.

Mesut Ozil also made clear his disapproval of the introduction of a Super League, a competition he believes will dilute the excitement surrounding European heavyweights going up against each other.

"Kids grow up dreaming to win the World Cup and the Champions League - not any Super League," Ozil posted on Twitter, along with a broken heart emoji.

"The enjoyment of big games is that they only happen once or twice a year, not every week. Really hard to understand for all football fans out there."

Barcelona insist they are remaining "loyal" to their history after signing up to the controversial European Super League but believe the move is part of "great changes" required in world football.

Six English clubs, three Italian sides and Barca along with two other Spanish teams have joined forces to create a tournament that has long been speculated about, despite significant opposition from UEFA and the respective leagues.

Reigning European champions Bayern Munich and last season's Champions League finalists Paris Saint-Germain are not included, though it is said the competition plans to expand to 15 teams before its inaugural season, which will start "as soon as practicable".

The Premier League's so-called 'big six' – Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham – are the teams to have signed up alongside Real Madrid, Barca, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Milan and their city rivals Inter.

Following speculation earlier in the day that prompted a withering response from UEFA, a joint announcement was made by several of the clubs late on Sunday, confirming plans were in place and the initial 12 founding clubs had an agreement.

The lengthy statement revealed the competition will have five guest teams added to the finalised 15 founding clubs and will run as a midweek tournament alongside the domestic leagues – those clubs in power will share €3.5billion "solely to support their infrastructure investment plans and to offset the impact of the COVID pandemic".

While the plans have been met with widespread condemnation due to the competition guaranteeing places – and vast revenue – to a closed group of clubs, those involved claim they have the best interests of football in mind.

Barca are no different, adamant it is their responsibility to help develop the sport.

At their end of their version of the uniform statement, which they did not release until Monday morning, Barcelona said: "FC Barcelona, loyal to its history and its leadership role within the framework of European Football, once again places itself as a leading club with regards to the great changes that are needed in the world of football, thinking always in the how to benefit the club best from a sporting, institutional and financial point of view."

UEFA, the national associations of England, Spain and Italy, plus LaLiga, Serie A and the Premier League signed a joint statement on Sunday that threatened any team involved in the Super League will be excluded from domestic and international competitions.

For a long time, Neymar had been tipped to re-join Barcelona after leaving Camp Nou in a world-record transfer in 2017.

But Neymar's future is close to being finalised.

Paris Saint-Germain are set to retain the Brazil international.

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR AND PSG POISED FOR RENEWAL

Neymar is close to signing a new contract with Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain, according to Canal+.

PSG star Neymar has been in contract negotiations and publicly pledged his long-term future to the club following their progress to the Champions League semi-finals.

Previously linked with a return to Barcelona, Neymar could sign his renewal before the Champions League tie against Manchester City.

 

ROUND-UP

- Erling Haaland's future remains up in the air, reports Diario AS. The in-demand Borussia Dortmund sensation has been linked with Barca, Real Madrid, Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, PSG, Juventus, Chelsea and Bayern Munich. Speculation over his next move intensified as he followed Barca captain Lionel Messi on Instagram amid the Camp Nou club's interest.

- Diario Sport claims Ousmane Dembele's contract talks with Barcelona have stalled. Dembele, who is contracted until 2021-22, has been linked with United and Liverpool.

United and Liverpool are both eyeing Sevilla star Youssef En-Nesyri, says Estadio Deportivo. Sevilla are reportedly demanding in the region of £40million (€46m) for the forward.

- Russian powerhouse Zenit are interested in signing Barca defender Samuel Umtiti, reports Fabrizio Romano. Liverpool, United and Chelsea have been linked previously.

Gianluigi Donnarumma and Milan remain at an impasse regarding contract talks, according to Gianluca Di Marzio. The star Milan and Italy goalkeeper is out of contract at the end of the season and the likes of PSG, Chelsea, Juve and United have emerged as possible destinations.

The Supporters' Trusts of Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester United and Arsenal slammed the announcement of a breakaway competition to rival UEFA's Champions League, the European Super League (ESL).

Chelsea, Tottenham, United and Arsenal are among the 12 teams confirmed to form the new Super League, which also includes Premier League rivals Liverpool and Manchester City, as well as LaLiga trio Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Serie A's Juventus, Inter and Milan.

Despite significant opposition from UEFA, the respective leagues and the UK Government, and widespread condemnation, the ESL's plans were confirmed on Sunday.

It has been met with strong criticism, with Chelsea Supporters' Trust releasing a damning statement in response.

"They say expect the unexpected, but today the Chelsea Supporters' Trust [CST], our members and football supporters across the world have experienced the ultimate betrayal," the statement read.

"This is a decision of greed to line the pockets of those at the top and it has been made with no consideration for the loyal supporters, our history, our future of the future of football in this country.

"It is likely that this proposal with never come into existence, however, it speaks volumes that [Chelsea] are prepared to risk our existence in the Premier League and the FA Cup.

"The CST has held extensive talks with CFC over the past few weeks regarding various issues and there has been no mention of his secretive proposal. The CST and its members demand answers. This is unforgiveable. Enough is enough."

Arsenal Supporters' Trust tweeted: "The death of Arsenal as a sporting institution."

Tottenham Supporters' Trust issued a powerful statement, saying: "Tottenham Hotspur was the first British club to win a European trophy. We blazed a trail that caught the imagination of fans everywhere. Yesterday, the current Board of THFC betrayed the club, its history and the magic that makes this game so special when they put their name to a statement announcing the formation of a breakaway European Super League.

"This statement, signed by self-appointed 'leading clubs', was put out late on a Sunday night. It was made not only after no consultation with supporters, but in the face of clearly stated opposition to key parts of the announcement. 
 
"We have always tried to maintain a pragmatic position of engagement with the Board of THFC, even under the most trying of circumstances. But enough is enough. The current Board is prepared to risk the club's reputation and its future in the opportunistic pursuit of greed. One of England's most famous clubs could find itself expelled from English league competition. Its players could be banned from international competition. And yet the current owners – mere custodians of a 139-year-old institution – are prepared to risk it all for avarice and self-aggrandisement.
 
"We demand the Board immediately disassociates itself from the breakaway league. Only then can meaningful discussions about change take place. If the Board does not do this, we will have no choice but to call on new owners prepared to safeguard the past, present and future of our great club to step forward and work with us."

Manchester United Supporters' Trust added: "A 'Super League' based on a closed shop of self-selected wealthy clubs goes against everything football, and Manchester United, should stand for.

"To bring forward these proposals without any fan consultation, and in the midst of a global pandemic when people should be pulling together not serving their own selfish interests, just adds insult to injury."

Manchester United co-chairman and vice-chairman of the European Super League (ESL) Joel Glazer said the breakaway competition will provide "increased financial support for the wider football pyramid".

Six English clubs, three Italian sides and three Spanish teams have joined forces to create a tournament to rival the Champions League, which has long been in the offing, despite significant opposition from UEFA and the respective leagues.

The Premier League's "big six" – Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham – are the teams to have signed up alongside LaLiga champions Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Serie A holders Juventus, Milan and their city rivals Inter.

The Glazer family have long been scrutinised since purchasing United in 2005, and Joel – who also serves as chairman of NFL Super Bowl champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – addressed Sunday's announcement.

"By bringing together the world's greatest clubs and players to play each other throughout the season, the Super League will open a new chapter for European football, ensuring world-class competition and facilities, and increased financial support for the wider football pyramid," he said in a statement.

UEFA was joined by the top five European leagues and the English Football Association (FA) in opposing the plans, while FIFA also expressed its "disapproval" of the new competition.

Former United captain Gary Neville called for harsh punishment of the Premier League sides involved, including relegation.

Rio Ferdinand, who played alongside Neville at Old Trafford, was also scathing of the Premier League clubs.

Asked if the teams should face immediate sanctions, Ferdinand told BT Sport: "100 per cent. I think this breakaway group of teams, this is a war on football. It's a disgrace. It's embarrassing. And it goes against everything football is about.

"It's a closed shop for these bigwigs and it's completely and utterly only about one thing and that's money. The rich getting richer and the others not even being considered. There's no consideration for the history, for the people in the different parts of the pyramid below the top, top teams that they’re trying to separate from.

"It's a disgrace, I can't believe it.  How have they got the audacity to do it in the climate we're in at the moment with the pandemic around the world? People struggling in the streets, people struggling all around the world, and these lot are sitting there in their own little pub or room somewhere, speaking and talking and colluding about this little idea they've had and then come out and break it like this.

"It's a disgrace and I think the element of being anti-competitive goes against everything football is about. Relegation, promotion, being rewarded for winning, being punished for not winning: these are things that add to the value of our game that we love.

"It shows me that these people have no idea what football is about. It's purely a business transaction, that's it. There's no thought for anyone else in the pyramid, there's no consideration at all. I can't believe it.

"The people that actually support this game and make it what it is – we've been here all this time without fans, with them this game doesn't feel the same. And they're the people that this is going to hurt more than anyone, and the grassroots. The people that make this game special are not being considered, it's the people at the top end of the game who are making decisions without thinking about anything other than their pockets."

On United, Ferdinand added: "I'm embarrassed. There's been so many things thrown at the owners over the past few years, but this situation now – to be a part of that group that want to break away and leave everybody for dead – that's an embarrassment.

"I can't believe it. I'm sorry, I'm a Man United fan, I love the club, but I can't stand by and support something like that at all."

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