Harry Kane was shocked to see Jose Mourinho sacked ahead of the EFL Cup final against Manchester City and only found out about the decision five or 10 minutes before the official announcement.

While Kane had previously seen Mauricio Pochettino axed and acknowledged that Mourinho knew the risks of taking charge at Tottenham, he was not expecting the move which came just six days before the final.

The England captain, though, praised interim manager Ryan Mason and is "buzzing" to see his friend get the opportunity lead Spurs to silverware on Sunday, having won his first match 2-1 against Southampton in the Premier League.

Kane is a fitness doubt for the EFL Cup final after he suffered an ankle injury in last week's draw at Everton.

Mason says the club will take no risks with their talisman, who has still not returned to training, but they are monitoring his situation hour by hour.

"I was surprised - I'll be totally honest," Kane said to Sky Sports about the sacking of Mourinho. 

"I came in that morning and probably found out five to 10 minutes before it was announced.

"A lot of the focus was on the Carabao Cup final and preparing for that. But, look, it's football. I've been here now where a couple of managers have been sacked.

"As a player now, I don't think you ever expect the boss to be sacked but it's part of the game, you have to deal with it.

"I had a great relationship with Jose, I wish him all the best for whatever his next job is, but he knows as we know football can be cut-throat and we just have to look forward.

"We have a big final to prepare for now and we're looking forward to that. Ryan's been great. It's obviously been strange for him, a bit of a rollercoaster coming in late notice and taking on the job.

"I thought he's done incredibly well; how he's handled the whole situation, handled the boys and obviously getting his first win against Southampton was a massive moment.

"Me and Ryan are good mates, we've known each other a long time, on and off the field we are really close.

"I'm buzzing for him to have this opportunity and to have the experience to manage one of the best clubs in the world. Hopefully we can try and win on Sunday and experience a truly special moment together."

The build-up to the final – and even the sacking of Mourinho – was overshadowed by Spurs' planned involvement in the European Super League.

It was not a prospect Kane was keen on and he was glad to see the project fall apart within 48 hours.

Kane added: "I liked the outcome of it. I didn't quite like the idea of it if I'm honest. I can totally understand the fans' point of view.

"From a lot of people's point of view, it wasn't quite right. It's obviously been ended for now. I'm proud of the fans for sticking up for what they believe in. 

"For football in general it's good the way it is. The competitiveness is an important part of football and that's the reason we play."

Kane has previously acknowledged he faces a big decision over his club future at the end of the season.

Spurs look unlikely to reach the Champions League and the City clash provides Kane with a shot at what would be his first major honour.

City boss Pep Guardiola is looking to deny him and become the first manager to win the EFL Cup in four consecutive seasons.

Guardiola's side have not lost any of their last 19 ties in the competition since being eliminated by Manchester United in October 2016.

No player has scored more club goals at Wembley than Kane, who has 31 in 44 games at the national stadium for Spurs. It was Tottenham's temporary home during the construction of their new stadium.

He has netted eight times in his last 10 club games at Wembley, though there have only been two English scorers in the last seven EFL Cup finals – John Terry in 2015 and Jesse Lingard in 2017.

As for Mason, the last manager to take charge of an English club in a major final as early as his second game at the helm was Luton Town's Syd Owen in the 1959 FA Cup final.

Pep Guardiola took another shot at UEFA over its expanded Champions League format, claiming European football's governing body does not care about player workloads.

Guardiola came out strongly against the ill-fated Super League plans this week, decrying the closed-shop format as "not sport", despite Manchester City being one of the 12 teams to sign up before withdrawing.

But the City boss also said the launch of a breakaway project was evidence UEFA had "failed" and he was similarly uncomplimentary about reforms that will see the Champions League contested by 36 teams as opposed to its current 32 from the 2024-25 season, with 10 group games instead of six for each side.

"Every time it’s the same. All the managers and players ask for better quality and the football world goes for quantity," Guardiola said ahead of Sunday's EFL Cup final against Tottenham at Wembley.

"But we are not in charge of that. We have to ask UEFA and FIFA to extend the year, maybe have 400 days a year. Maybe then they can find a solution on that."

City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan tweeted his opposition to the Champions League revamp, branding it "the lesser of two evils" when set against the Super League.

Guardiola feels the schedule for elite teams is already at breaking point, claiming he has been unable to undertake significant tactical and coaching work with the Premier League leaders throughout a compacted 2020-21 calendar.

"Every season is the same and, at the end of the day, the players they play because they love to play, but the injuries come," he said.

"UEFA knows that, of course they know it. Do they care? Absolutely not. They put on more games and more competitions to do it.

"And we are going to play of course. We are lucky. We are going to be in the Champions League next season, we are going to play this competition, but it's a lot, honestly.

"We didn't have one midweek off. So you cannot train. I cannot train, I'm not a manager, I cannot train. I do not train. We just handle the team, make them as sharp as possible and the best as possible.

"I cannot train anything. It's just videos, and just [telling the players to] remember what we have to do. We don't have time in the pre-season to make the principles.

"We cannot forget that we started the season against Wolves without one friendly game. We didn't have a friendly to prepare. Since then we didn't have one midweek off. As a manager, yes, we had the international break, but the players went to national teams for three games in six or seven or 10 days.

"It's crazy, but every time we speak about that, when we go to UEFA meetings, we talk about that and they say, 'Yes, yes, well done. We take note'.

"But then we play more games, and next season we will create a new competition for the guys not in the Champions League or the Europa League [the Europa Conference League]. They will play a new competition, yes, another one."

Despite there being plenty of praise for UEFA over how it handled football's crisis this week, Guardiola for one is not screaming "encore".

"It's a lot," he reiterated. "It's like an actor or an actress in the theatre making three shows a day. They don't enjoy it. Once a day they like it, to go on stage and make a good performance. But three times a day is too much."

Manchester City have struck a deal to sign Brazilian teenager Kayky from Fluminense, the Premier League giants announced on Friday.

The 17-year-old forward has caught the eye in early professional appearances for his Rio de Janeiro-based team and is now poised to switch to the Premier League.

City announced on Twitter: "We are delighted to confirm we have reached an agreement with Fluminese regarding the future transfer of Kayky. The teenage forward will remain with Fluminese until the end of the Brazilian season."

Kayky has joined the Fluminense first team this season and City's brief statement indicates he will remain in Brazil until the league campaign concludes there in December.

The Campeonato Serie A is due to begin in late May.

Kayky has caught the eye with his first two senior goals coming in April, including a stunning solo effort against Nova Iguacu in the Campeonato Carioca.

Tottenham are still waiting to decide if Harry Kane will feature in Sunday's EFL Cup final, but Ryan Mason says the club will take no risks with their talisman.

Kane suffered an ankle injury in last week's draw at Everton, putting his involvement in the Wembley meeting with Manchester City in doubt.

The England captain has still not returned to training.

No player has scored more club goals at Wembley than Kane, who has 31 in 44 games at the national stadium for Spurs, but Mason is staying patient.

"We're not sure yet," the interim head coach said of Kane's status. "He didn't train with the team today but we'll have more of an idea tomorrow to see if we can get him back on the pitch.

"I'm not really sure. It's a case of taking it hour by hour now. The days are obviously running out.

"It's a case of seeing how he feels in the next four hours, the next six hours, and taking it from there."

Kane has played in each of Tottenham's three games en route to the final, scoring in the quarter-final against Stoke City.

Mason trusts the striker will contribute to making the right call on his fitness this week.

"Harry is a top professional," he said. "We're taking it hour by hour and we'll see how he feels.

"What we're not going to do - and what Harry's not going to do - is put his body on the line if he doesn't feel like it's suitable. We're never going to put Harry in that position, absolutely not.

"But we'll see what happens, see how he feels tomorrow, and then we'll start making a decision from there.

"It's a combined effort. How does the player feel? What do the medics feel? What's the advice? What are the chances of something happening?

"Harry's a mature man, a mature professional footballer. He's had to deal with certain situations and I think, ultimately, we'll speak to him, with no pressure.

"How d'you feel? What are you feeling? We'll go from there."

Mason does not feel the situation is comparable to Spurs' previous final appearance in the Champions League in 2018-19 when Kane returned from injury ahead of schedule and mustered only a single shot in a 2-0 defeat to Liverpool.

"I think it was completely different because Harry had a very long time out injured for the Champions League final," Mason said.

"I don't know if Harry's going to be available for training tomorrow, let alone the game on Sunday, but if he is then it's a quick turnaround.

"A week without training is not a problem for someone in Harry's condition.

"We're going to have to probably assess it later tonight, early in the morning and see if we can get him on the pitch."

Mason - already the most junior Premier League coach of all time - will become the youngest ever EFL Cup final manager (29y 316d). Gianluca Vialli had been the youngest until now (33y 263d) as he guided Chelsea to victory in 1998.

"It means a hell of a lot," he said. "I've not really thought about it a great deal, because I've been preparing for the game, but this isn't really about me.

"It's about the football club, it's about Tottenham Hotspur being involved in these big matches, our fans getting to see us in these big matches.

"My focus is fully on the match. Maybe once the season's done and I get some time to think, I'll look back on it and be very proud."

Tottenham are without silverware since the 2008 final victory over Chelsea, while opponents City are bidding for a record-equalling eighth triumph and fourth in a row.

"I think there was a two or three-year period where Tottenham had chances and maybe should have [won something], but football doesn't always work out like that," Mason said.

"What they did do is develop a great team and the club went in a direction that we wanted - that's how Tottenham should go about things.

"Listen, unfortunately, we didn't get over the line, but if we don't get over the line on Sunday, we still have our identity and our DNA as a football club. That's the most important thing."

Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero are back in training ahead of Manchester City's EFL Cup final showdown with Tottenham on Sunday.

Pep Guardiola's side are aiming to win the trophy for a fourth consecutive season, returning to Wembley eight days after a 1-0 defeat to Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-finals.

The pain of that defeat was compounded by star midfielder De Bruyne hobbling off with an ankle injury, although the problem is not as bad as first feared.

De Bruyne sat out Wednesday's 2-1 win at Aston Villa but resumed work with Guardiola's first-team squad alongside Aguero.

City's all-time record goalscorer has endured a final campaign at the Etihad Stadium beset by knee and hamstring issues after meniscus surgery last June, while he also suffered the effects of coronavirus.

"Both [De Bruyne and Aguero] they are training today," Guardiola said, meaning each man appears to have better prospects than Harry Kane, who was unable to take part in Tottenham's Friday session.

"Today was the first training session after the last two weeks [for Aguero]. Tomorrow he will have the last training session and we are going to decide."

Final successes in the past three campaigns over Arsenal, Chelsea and Villa mean City can become the second team in history after Liverpool between 1981 and 1984 to lift the cup for a fourth season in a row.

However, as was the case in the Chelsea reverse, Guardiola hinted there might be wholesale changes as he casts an eye towards Wednesday's Champions League semi-final first leg against Paris Saint-Germain.

"We've said many times. every game must be taken seriously. But the Premier League is the most important competition this season. After that it is the Champions League, the FA Cup and after the Carabao Cup," he said.

"When you play this competition at the beginning of the season when every player is fit, it is perfect to rotate and everybody can be involved.

"We have to play right now in the middle of the decisive part of the season. I would say the Premier League is the first title of the season and the second to qualify for the Champions League – ask all the teams who are fighting to qualify for next season.

"Once we are there and arrive in this position, normally the Carabao Cup is over, but now we are going to play [the final] in the middle part of the important part of the Premier League season. And three days before, like a dream come true at the end [of the season], we play the semi-final of the Champions League."

Guardiola added: "That’s why we have a mix of contradiction; that it's a final we have to win, but we have one eye on the Champions League and one eye on Crystal Palace [in the Premier League next weekend].

"Carabao Cup is nice - we want the four, we will play to win the fourth. But PSG and Palace are there and PSG [in the second leg] is there. We'll see what happens on Sunday."

Tottenham have to start delivering trophies if they are to keep hold of star Harry Kane amid links with Manchester United and Manchester City, according to Jonathan Woodgate.

Kane, who has said he will assess his future after the delayed Euro 2020 tournament with England, is reportedly ready to quit Tottenham in pursuit of silverware.

The 27-year-old striker is yet to win a trophy with boyhood club Tottenham, who sacked Jose Mourinho on Monday and are set to face City in Sunday's EFL Cup final.

Former Tottenham defender Woodgate – now head coach of Championship outfit Bournemouth – was part of the Spurs team that last won silverware via the 2008 EFL Cup.

Woodgate insisted Tottenham must do more than beat City in the upcoming decider at Wembley to hold on to Kane, who has been linked with both Manchester clubs and Real Madrid.

"They have to [start winning silverware] with the stadium they have built and with the players they have got," said Woodgate.

"They have got the best striker in England in Harry Kane so they need to start winning trophies for him.

"They're a well-run football club but they need to start soon."

Kane reached 20 Premier League goals for a fifth season with the first of his brace against Everton last week, though he was forced off late in the 2-2 draw on Merseyside with an ankle injury.

The England international's two goals at Goodison Park lifted him to 164 for his career in the Premier League, good enough for seventh on the competition's all-time list. Thierry Henry (175) and Frank Lampard (177) are next in his sights, while Alan Shearer sits top on 260.

Kane sat out Spurs' 2-1 home win over Southampton on Wednesday – the first outing with temporary boss Ryan Mason in charge – and it remains unclear if he will recover in time to feature in the City showdown.

Manchester City star Ilkay Gundogan has pleaded with UEFA to think more about player workloads after changes were made to the Champions League.

On Sunday, City were one of 12 leading clubs to announce their intention to join the European Super League – a breakaway competition with a closed-shop element.

By Tuesday evening, City were the first team to officially confirm their withdrawal from that league, with the other English teams swiftly following suit amid widespread criticism and pressure from fellow clubs, UEFA, politicians, the Premier League and the Football Association.

Atletico Madrid, Inter and Milan have also withdrawn, with Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus the other teams who signed up to the project.

Sunday's reports and subsequent announcement of the 12-team proposal came a day ahead of UEFA confirming changes to the format of the Champions League.

From 2024, there will be 36 teams featured in the tournament, with each club guaranteed a minimum of 10 games.

While the European Super League has taken much of the flack, the Champions League alterations would also seemingly guarantee more dominance to the bigger teams, while also congesting an already packed fixture schedule, something which Gundogan is not on board with.

"With all the Super League stuff going on... can we please also speak about the new Champions League format?" the Germany international tweeted on Thursday.

"More and more and more games, is no one thinking about us players? The new UCL format is just the lesser of the two evils in comparison to the Super League.

"The UCL format right now works great and that is why it's the most popular club competition in the world – for us players and for the fans."

City have progressed to the Champions League semi-finals this season, for only the second time in their history.

One of the proposed sanctions against the 12 clubs by UEFA was the possibility of banning them from its competitions.

It remains to be seen what punishment, if any, the teams will receive from UEFA or their domestic leagues after the attempted breakaway.

Barcelona said it would have been an "historical error" not to sign up for the European Super League and the club remains convinced structural reform is needed to protect the financial future of football.

The Blaugrana were announced on Sunday as one of 12 founding members of the highly controversial breakaway league, which received widespread criticism due to the closed-shop nature of the competition.

Less than 48 hours, all six of the Premier League teams that had agreed to sign up all withdrew their participation following a fierce backlash from fans, players, supporters, the Football Association and the UK government.

Atletico Madrid and Serie A rivals Milan and Inter later followed suit, seemingly leaving the league dead in the water before it even took off the ground.

But Real Madrid president Florentino Perez and Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli – leading figures in the Super League – both launched a staunch defence of a competition they remain convinced has to happen as clubs struggle to contend with the economic impact caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Newly re-elected Barca president Joan Laporta earlier said the lucrative Super League was "absolutely necessary" and a club statement struck a similarly pleading tone about their belief that change is a must.

"FC Barcelona shares the view of most major European football clubs, and even more so given the current socio-economic climate, that there is a need for structural reforms to guarantee the financial sustainability and feasibility of world football by improving the product that is offered to fans around the world and by consolidating and even increasing the fan base on which this sport is sustained, which is its mainstay and greatest strength," the statement began.

"In this context, the FC Barcelona Board of Directors accepted, as a matter of immediate urgency, the offer to form part, as the founding member, of the Super League, a competition designed to improve the quality and attractiveness of the product offered to the football fans and, at the same time, and as one of FC Barcelona's most inalienable principles, seek new formulas for solidarity with the football family as a whole.

"The decision was made in the conviction that it would have been a historical error to turn down the opportunity to be part of this project as one of its founding members. As one of the world's top sports club, our intention shall always be to be at the forefront, this being an indispensable part of the club's identity and its sporting, social and institutional spirit."

Despite the project seemingly being left in tatters, Perez insisted the project the Super League is "not dead" in an interview with Spanish radio station El Larguero.

Barca said more analysis is clearly needed but said such examination must take place in the absence of "unjustified pressure and intimidation".

The statement added: "Given the public reaction that the aforementioned project has generated in many and various spheres, there is no question that FC Barcelona appreciates that a much more in-depth analysis is required into the reasons that have caused this reaction in order to reconsider, if necessary, and to the required extent, the proposal as originally formulated and resolve all those issues, always for the good of the general interest of the football world. Such in-depth analysis needs time and the necessary composure to avoid taking any rash action.

"We feel it is equally important to highlight the objective fact that a Court of Justice has already granted urgent legal protection as requested, thus confirming right of the initiative on the part of the founding clubs of the Super League project.

"In this regard, FC Barcelona considers that it would be improper for the necessary process of reflection and debate to be established under criteria of unjustified pressure and intimidation.

"Despite being perfectly aware of the importance and interest raised by this matter, as well as the need to always act with the utmost transparency, FC Barcelona shall act at all times with due prudence and asks for the utmost understanding, respect and most of all patience among FC Barcelona supporters and public opinion in general."

Aleksander Ceferin says Florentino Perez is "the president of nothing" and believes the controversial European Super League was "an attempt to create a phantom league of the rich".

On Sunday, Real Madrid president Perez was named as chairman of the hugely divisive competition, with Los Blancos named among 12 founding members planning to play in a breakaway league.

However, just two days later, Premier League clubs Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham all pulled out amid a huge backlash from the Football Association, the UK government, fans, pundits and players.

Despite the competition crumbling before it got off the ground, Perez launched another staunch defence when speaking to Cadena SER's El Larguero radio show late on Wednesday, having earlier this week stated the Super League was vital for the future of clubs struggling financially in the COVID-19 pandemic.

UEFA chief Ceferin believes Perez and other presidents should not be solely blaming the coronavirus crisis for huge losses, making pointed remarks in an interview with Slovenian broadcaster Pop TV.

"I might want to say something else that Perez said earlier – clubs have losses, but also because they are poorly run," Ceferin said.

"If you overpay players, unsuitable players, and therefore do not achieve a result, it means a loss to you. 

"For example, Bayern Munich have no losses and have won the Champions League. You cannot just blame COVID-19, which many do.

"Perez is the president of a Super League that didn't exist. At the moment he's the president of nothing.

"Perez would like a [UEFA] president that will listen to him and a president that will do as he tells him. But I am trying to work in European and world soccer's best interests.

"I'm actually horrified that by being enormously rich, profit means so much more than values. You can tell lies; you can enter players and the coaches into a new competition without them knowing anything about it."

Perez insists the idea of the Super League is not dead in the water, but Ceferin remains convinced it was little more than a power play to try to protect the interests of football's richest clubs.

"In my opinion, the Super League never existed," Ceferin added.

"It was an attempt to create a phantom league of the rich that wouldn't follow any system, that wouldn't take into account the pyramid structure of football in Europe, its culture, tradition or history."

Perez bizarrely cited a lack of interest from the younger generation among reasons for wanting to form the league, even suggesting matches could be shortened from the current time of 90 minutes.

But Ceferin again disputed the point, adding: "Young people are very interested in a football match, it's completely clear to me.

"The fact is that football is a sport, it's a passion, a school of life, you can learn a lot from football. I learned a lot from football myself.

"You can't look at football as a product, you can't look at the players as customers or consumers, you can't look at how many you have in your account or how many new followers you have on Twitter instead of the result after the game. This has become common with certain big club owners and they have simply lost touch with reality and reality was clearly shown in the UK 24 hours or so ago."

Alongside the righteous anger that helped bring about its rapid demise, there were multiple moments of hilarity to accompany the fleetingly brief existence of the European Super League.

By Wednesday, when Real Madrid president Florentino Perez once again went in to bat for his pet project and aired his ever-tenuous grasp on reality, the whole thing had gone a bit Monty Python.

"If you think the Super League is dead, you're absolutely wrong," he told El Laguaro

The Super League is no more, Florentino! It has ceased to be! This is a late Super League! Stiff, bereft of life!

As events spun rapidly away from the control of Perez, Andrea Agnelli and the other arch-schemers associated with the 12 teams signed up to the ill-fated enterprise, it was undeniably rousing to see players, coaches and supporters united in the same aim, speaking with one emphatic voice.

It begs the question of how this sense of common purpose can now be harnessed to tackle the ills of football that brought us to this moment of defining crisis.

Champions League reform

Perez described the Champions League format as "obsolete", which was a little rich given the reforms to UEFA's flagship competition that were signed off this week – a revamp Juventus president Agnelli described as "close to ideal" and "beautiful" as recently as last month – share some common features with the Super League plans.

Teams will be guaranteed more matches in an expanded group stage, while two spots are reserved for sides who have the highest club coefficients of those who have failed to qualify, an element widely viewed as a move to protect ailing European giants against the consequences of short-term failure.

UEFA's arrival at the so-called Swiss model for the round-robin phase was understandable as the latest move to placate the super clubs, safeguarding their income and averting the prospect of a breakaway.

Since that happened anyway and failed spectacularly, what impetus remains for the Swiss model? Why not consider supporter-friendly alternatives that cater to a greater number of clubs from outside the elite?

The six Premier League clubs, Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Juve, Inter and Milan all gave up their European Club Association memberships to join the Super League. Their collective clout has not been less significant for decades.

Paris Saint-Germain chief Nasser Al-Khelaifi has replaced Agnelli as ECA chairman, but a new hastily convened executive board also features Dariusz Mioduski of Legia Warsaw and Aki Riihilahti of HJK Helsinki. What might a Champions League giving more consideration to those kind of clubs look like?

The fan fantasy of straight knockout in the style of the old European Cup is never going to happen for a number of reasons, but expansion could still bring more interest and fewer dead rubbers.

Say, for example, the four-team group format remained, but entry was opened to 48 clubs. The top two from 12 groups progress to a round of 32, along with the best eight third-placed teams.

This arrangement is to be used in the expanded World Cup and has come in for its fair share of criticism – it is a lot of games to lose just a third of the participants – but would generally keep qualification for the knockout rounds open to more teams for longer.

For the purists, the four-pot system could be loosened into one recognising 12 seeds for the group stage, with seedings abandoned altogether when straight knockouts get underway.

Share the wealth

Financial motivations obviously drove the Super League plot, Perez pleading poverty on Madrid's behalf entirely in line with its other grasps for PR success.

"UEFA and its member associations believe in a truly European model that is founded on open competitions, solidarity and redistribution to ensure the sustainability and development of the game for the benefit of all and the promotion of European values and social outcomes," the governing body said in a statement decrying the Super League.

There is a real opportunity to make good on this vision because the teams who had been demanding an ever-greater slice of the pie stormed away from the table in such a huff they left all their cutlery behind.

The trickle-down benefit of Champions League money has sometimes been hard to spot, not only with a parade of usual suspects progressing to the latter stages each year, but also across a host of Europe's less-celebrated domestic leagues, where a club benefitting from UEFA prize money has been able to dominate at home with few notable challengers. Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine and BATE Borisov in Belarus are examples of this.

Equitable distribution across the wider structure of European football can definitely be encouraged to the good of all, something certainly true in the Premier League.

The vitriolic reaction to the Super League in England means the big six can be told with a straight face that they need the other 14 more so than the other way around.

Demands for the six to be docked points and fined heavily certainly serve a palpable sense of hurt and betrayal. But if, for example, Manchester City began 2021-22 on -10 points with the rest of the breakaway bunch, they would still probably be favourites to win the title.

That speaks of a deck unacceptably stacked against other teams and this is what needs to change. Distributing Premier League television income equally 20 ways, or even a less radical split, would effect more lasting change than any punitive measures against the big six. Again, their hand has rarely been weaker so the time is now.

Empower fans

Bayern Munich's absence from the Super League rebels, as reigning European champions, was noteworthy but hardly surprising.

Germany's vaunted 50+1 model, where fans hold a majority of voting rights when set against commercial investors in their clubs, is not a one-way ticket to utopia. If it was, Bayern would not be on the brink of cantering to a ninth successive Bundesliga title.

However, it makes Bayern joining a breakaway that might otherwise be in their interests virtually impossible. The cringing mea culpas embarked upon by John Henry, Ferran Soriano and others this week would not have been necessary had they simply been required to consult fans in the first place.

Barcelona and Madrid's "socio" models are also an example of member ownership, but outside of presidential elections, fan power is negligible. Perhaps there will be moves to change that in the aftermath of this humiliation, but once more, the febrile atmosphere in England suggests the greatest appetite for change.

The Super League crisis brought about government involvement in the UK and, while aping 50+1 might be impractical, enshrining a requirement of meaningful fan representation at clubs in law suddenly feels like a possibility.

Make the game affordable for youngsters

With or without this, the Premier League showing gratitude to the people who played a huge role in saving their competition is a must. Ticket prices have to come down to widen access to the game, particularly among younger fans.

Entirely in line with establishment executives of his stripes, the 74-year-old Perez has done an awful lot of talking at the much-discussed 18-24 demographic, using them as a faceless example to justify his self-interested schemes.

Young people are bored of football, you see. Computers have turned their brains into cheese and maybe we need shorter games for their dwindling attention spans.

Perhaps, or maybe a generation priced out of football by high admission prices and subscription television packages are less inclined to engage with a game telling them to show us your money or shove off.

Getting young fans through the turnstiles when they reopen has never felt more important. This week there was a big enough mass opposition to say, "No! Not on our watch!". If football fails to nurture the next generation it will not have the same frontline defence the next time the foundations of the sport are challenged.

Reformed major competitions, through which there is a more equitable distribution of resources across a sport where fans of all ages are accommodated and given a voice will not be an easy vision to realise. Now the unifying big bad of the Super League is slain, whatever Perez says, conflicting and splintering interests will return.

But this unquestionably is not a moment to be squandered as football's flirtation with nuclear disaster casts the game in a new light.

Florentino Perez continued his staunch defence of the European Super League on Wednesday, despite the proposed breakaway competition having crumbled before it started.

Real Madrid president Perez had been appointed as the chairman of the competition, which was announced with 12 founding teams and to widespread criticism on Sunday.

Perez spoke on Monday about a need to change football, with clubs struggling financially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, while he also cited a lack of interest in the game from younger generations.

Yet his words did little to appease the furore and, on Tuesday, the six English clubs involved in the competition all pulled out amid pressure from the Premier League, Football Association (FA), UEFA and the UK government.

The owners of Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City all offered apologies to their fans for their part in the plans. 

Atletico Madrid, Inter, Milan and Juventus subsequently pulled out on Wednesday, albeit Perez has claimed the latter two remain committed.

Yet Perez insists he will not let the proposals die, and is adamant that there must be drastic reform to football, maintaining the European Super League was put together as a plan to save the game.

Speaking on the El Laguaro radio show following Madrid's win over Cadiz, Perez said: "We were working last night until late. We have been working many years on this project. We have not explained it very well, perhaps.

"They have not given us a chance either. Some do not want anything to happen. It cannot be that in England, the six lose money, and 14 make money. In Spain the top three lose money, and the others make money. It cannot continue – at the moment the rich are those who are losing money.

"I am a bit sad, disappointed. We have been working three years on this project, on fighting the current financial situation in Spanish football. You cannot touch LaLiga, so you look for more money midweek and the Champions League format is obsolete.

"I have never seen aggression greater on the part of the president of UEFA, it was orchestrated, it surprised us all. Insults and threats, as if we had killed football. 

"We are just working on saving football. We have worked very hard on something that would satisfy everyone.

"There was a campaign, totally manipulated, that we were going to finish the national leagues. That we were ending football, it was terrible. But we were working for football to survive.

"If you think the Super League is dead, you're absolutely wrong."

Perez was also bullish in the face of UEFA and FIFA's condemnation.

"Reality is reality. Look at the TV records, and how many people watch big games, and how many people watch the other games. We have to be real," he said.

"That new Champions League format in 2024 has no meaning. No one can understand it. We need a new format to create more money. Young fans don't watch football, they have other hobbies.

"I talk to [Joan] Laporta, Barcelona are still with us. Juventus did not leave. I'm not scared of FIFA or UEFA."

Concluding, Perez also stated that no club would be able to afford major signings at the end of the season.

"It's impossible to make signings like [Kylian] Mbappe and [Erling] Haaland without the Super League," he said. "Not just for us, there will be no big signings, for any club, without the Super League.

"When I took over, Madrid could not pay its players. We changed the world with the Galactico signings. Now after COVID-19, things have to change again."

Kevin De Bruyne could return to action for Manchester City in Sunday's EFL Cup final against Tottenham after his ankle injury proved not to be as serious as first feared.

De Bruyne limped off early in the second half of last weekend's 1-0 FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea, with City manager Pep Guardiola saying the damage "doesn't look good".

The Belgium international was absent as his team-mates came from a goal down and endured a red card for John Stones to beat Aston Villa 2-1 and go 11 points clear at the top of the Premier League.

Appearing visibly relieved before the match in the aftermath of the European Super League collapse, Guardiola reported further good news afterwards when De Bruyne's fitness was raised.

"It [the injury] was less than we expected, yesterday he felt much, much better," he said.

"Today I didn't speak to him but we'll see tomorrow in training."

After attempting to win a fourth consecutive EFL Cup on Sunday, City turn their attentions towards the first leg of a Champions League semi-final against Paris Saint-Germain.

"I think if he's not ready for the final, maybe he will be ready for the semi-final of the Champions League," Guardiola said.

Before Wednesday's game, an email attributed to City chief executive Ferran Soriano was sent to club members to apologise for signing up to the swiftly aborted Super League.

Guardiola lambasted the plans as "not sport" before anyone from his club had gone on the record, although he insisted his relationship with Soriano – which goes back to the pair's time together at Barcelona – is not in need of repair.

"I know the guys [on the board] and they don't need to apologise," he said.

"My chairman [Khaldoon Al-Mubarak] and CEO, I know who they are, this is most important. I understand the statement but it's a closed chapter, it's over."

The same might now be said for the Premier League title race, even if John McGinn's goal after 20 seconds threatened to let second-place Manchester Untied back into the hunt.

"It would have been dangeorus if we'd lost, Manchester United are in top form, but we deserve it for what we've done this season," Guardiola added, with man of the match Phil Foden equalising before Rodri headed the decisive goal.

"How incredible they were in the locker room, committed after two defeats. We knew how important it was as preparation for the final and the Champions League.

"It's close in the most difficult season of our lives. We have to finish this chapter, three games and we are champions."

Phil Foden made the difference for Manchester City once again at Aston Villa, with Pep Guardiola feeling the England international is coming of age.

Having lost their previous Premier League game at home to 10-man Leeds United and slumped to 1-0 FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea at the weekend, City emerged from the whirlwind of the European Super League debacle to go behind after 20 seconds to John McGinn's strike at Villa Park.

But Foden excelled, crowning a fine team move to equalise before Rodri headed home Bernardo Silva's cross to seal a 2-1 win before half-time.

There were further twists, as City ended the opening period with 10 men after John Stones clattered into Jacob Ramsey.

It was 10-a-side before the hour, though, as Foden tormented Villa right-back Matty Cash into a pair of yellow cards.

Overall, it was a supreme display from the England international, following on from his goals in each leg of City's Champions League quarter-final win over Borussia Dortmund.

"He's growing, this guy is growing. He is making steps forward every time," Guardiola told Sky Sports.

"His influence in our game is massive right now. He scored a goal, provoked the two yellow cards, in the final third he ran a lot and he is so aggressive without the ball.

"He is becoming a serious player."

Foden's 14 goals and nine assists mean only Kevin De Bruyne (24) among his team-mates has more than his 23 goal involvements this season and he is second to Ilkay Gundogan (16) in City's scoring charts.

Whether the 20-year-old is ahead of where he was expected to be in terms of development is not something that overly concerns Guardiola when the returns he is producing right now are so good.

"There are guys at 19 and 20 years old who are unstoppable, at 29 and 30 they are not," he said.

"The players dictate who they are. Right now for the last games, Phil is becoming such an important player

"Against Dortmund he scored an important goal, the cross for the penalty, the final goal in the last minute against Dortmund at home.

"He can play inside, outside, he is so aggressive with the ball."

It was not such a pleasing outing for Foden's international team-mate Stones.

Guardiola was initially infuriated by the decision after referee Peter Bankes consulted the pitchside monitor and elected to upgrade his initial booking.

Villa boss Dean Smith also felt Stones was harshly done by, but the City manager feels the centre-back's woes should serve to sharpen minds in his squad ahead of Sunday's EFL Cup final against Tottenham and the Champions League semi-final showdown with Paris Saint-Germain.

"He is late but the intention is not bad. He wanted to get the ball," Guardiola said.

"We are happy. If we lost we would be angry, but okay.

"It is a good lesson for the final on Sunday. You play a final 10 v 11, you have no chance. And especially then against PSG."

Manchester City's players were universally against the European Super League project, according to captain Fernandinho. 

The 12-team breakaway competition was only revealed on Sunday, yet the universal backlash quickly led to the 'big six' from the Premier League all withdrawing from the proposal.

City were the first to reveal their decision to pull out, with Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester United then releasing simultaneous statements ending their association.

Chelsea had been the first English club reported to be making a Super League U-turn and the Blues confirmed as much after the 0-0 home draw with Brighton and Hove Albion on Tuesday.

Speaking after City's 2-1 Premier League win over Aston Villa on Wednesday – a result that moved them 11 points clear of Manchester United at the top of the table, having played a game more – Fernandinho expressed his relief that the tournament had collapsed. 

"It's been crazy," he told Sky Sports. "After the Chelsea defeat in the FA Cup semi-final the guys were a little bit down and then on Monday this Super League came out.

"We were a little bit surprised. We didn't expect that but in the end I think the good sense was the right thing to do. Everyone throughout football didn't support this Super League, including our players.

"We are so happy now because everything has turned around. For sure, it was a big surprise for everyone.

"It's a tough situation, [we had] to find out from the people at the top of the club to see the reason they are there together with the other clubs.

"In the end, of course we wanted to come out to say we were against that. We had a chat with the players and waited for the club for the statement.

"We are happy because in the end football wins."

Victory at Villa Park for Pep Guardiola's men meant City became the first team to win 10 away games in a row in the competition on more than one occasion. 

Manchester City "lost sight of the historic values of the club" when they signed up to the doomed European Super League, according to chief executive Ferran Soriano.

City were one of 12 clubs to send shockwaves through football by being confirmed as founding members of the doomed breakaway on Sunday.

Widespread criticism from within football – including pointed remarks from City manager Pep Guardiola – and beyond prompted a rethink from those involved, with the Premier League leaders the first of the English top flight's 'big six' to formally confirm their U-turn amid a string of dramatic developments on Tuesday.

A one-paragraph, 25-word statement on the club website did little to placate fan anger, something Soriano has sought to address in an email to club members.

"I am sorry it has taken a little time, but the circumstances have been somewhat exceptional and it was important to me to contact you directly," Soriano wrote in a statement that began "Dear Supporter".

"As always, when we make choices and decisions, we do so with the best interests of the club in mind and we believed that being part of such an initiative could give us a voice that might be imperative to our future ability to succeed and grow."

At his news conference to preview Wednesday's Premier League match at Aston Villa, Guardiola criticised the closed-shop element of the planned Super League, remarking that a competition without the link between effort and success is "not sport" – something Soriano claimed he and his colleagues in the boardroom "failed to remind ourselves of".

"In making that choice we failed to remind ourselves of the unbreakable link between the passion of our fans and the right to have the opportunity to earn success," he continued.

"It is a truth that is fundamental to the DNA of Manchester City and the board deeply regrets taking a decision that lost sight of the historic values of the club. We made a mistake and we sincerely apologise to our fans for the disappointment, frustration and anguish caused by the last 72 hours.  

"I want to personally assure you that the owners, chairman, board and staff are completely committed to ensuring that the club continues to contribute meaningfully to the ongoing well-being of both the English and European football pyramids and their associated competitions. 

"We will embrace the opportunity to earn back the full trust of our stakeholders and the football family in general."

Manchester United executive chairman Ed Woodward announced his intention to step down at the end of 2021 as the Super League collapse unfolded.

Soriano has joined Liverpool owner John Henry, who posted a video message via his club's Twitter page, in addressing a mea culpa directly to supporters.

Joel Glazer, United's co-chair, signed a message to fans on their official website – the first direct communication with fans from the club's owning family since 2005.

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