— Sports

Super League a ‘longtime dream’ for Madrid president Pérez

MADRID (AP) – As Real Madrid kept winning the European title after the European championship, club president Florentino Pérez never stopped working on a side project he believed was perfect for the Spanish powerhouse. Pérez kept at it, constantly working behind the scenes to gather support. He was even accused of using rival club Barcelona to play along to help make it a reality.

The controversial Super League side project finally materialized after Madrid and 11 other clubs announced its creation on Sunday. The breakaway competition would include only the elite clubs in European soccer and would compete directly with the UEFA-run Champions League.

Pérez, the Super League’s founding chairman, said Tuesday that the new competition comes to “save soccer” and is being created because the coronavirus pandemic left clubs in a dire financial situation, on the verge of becoming extinct if nothing is changed. But the Super League idea existed way before the pandemic hit and before soccer was about to “die,” as Pérez put it.

Super League

“We have been working on this for the last two or three years,” Pérez said in an interview on the Spanish television program El Chiringuito de Jones. “Now the pandemic has led us to a situation we can no longer endure.”

The wealthy Spanish businessman is seen as one of the competition’s masterminds, Juventus president Andrea Agnelli and the American owners of Premier League clubs Arsenal, Liverpool, and Manchester United. Pérez said he was picked as the competition’s founding chairman because he is the one who “started” the idea. It was Pérez who some belief was behind one of the first public mentions about the new competition last year – one made by none other than the outgoing president of rival Barcelona. Spanish league president Javier Tebas, one of the most outspoken critics of the new league, said that Pérez prodded Josep Bartomeu to talk publicly about the new competition to give it more credibility.

In the speech announcing his resignation as club president last October, Bartomeu mentioned that Barcelona would be part of the Super League. His unexpected reference to the new league on his last day on the job, without any elaboration, attracted widespread attention at the time.

“Florentino directed Bartomeu; that is what I believe,” Tebas told The Associated Press at the time. “This (league) has been a dream of the Real Madrid president. … He has worked for this for a long time; this is nothing new. But it is a big mistake because he doesn’t understand its financial consequences.”

Pérez said Tuesday that when he talked to new Barcelona president Joan Laporta recently, it was easy to convince him because he understood that the new league could help soccer and the clubs.

More concrete plans for the new competition were leaked in January and only re-emerged this weekend. The proposal of the new competition attracted widespread criticism, with leagues, clubs, players, governments, and fan groups saying the rebel clubs were making a self-serving decision that would only benefit an elite group.

Pérez and Madrid were involved in a similarly controversial breakout in basketball nearly two decades ago when the club was among those that broke ties with the international federation and became founding members of Euroleague Basketball, currently the top league in Europe.

“We want to do the same thing that happened in basketball,” Pérez said. “We want that same model in soccer. We want to own our destiny. But with total solidarity. If there is a lot of money, we want it to be shared with everyone. This is not about the rich against the poor.”

Pérez also believed in helping influence the inclusion of Atlético Madrid among the founding members of the new soccer competition. According to Spanish media outlet Vozpópuli, Atlético was partly added because of the support of Pérez, who helped convince the other members about its importance.

Pérez, a businessman from the construction sector who Forbes says has a net worth of more than $2 billion, began his sixth term as Madrid president last week. He helped the club recover from its financial problems when he arrived in 2000, leading Madrid to 26 titles, including five European Cups and five Club World Cups.

Now he feels it’s soccer, in general, that needs his help.

“We want,” Pérez said, “to save soccer.”

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

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Molly Aronson

I'm an award-winning blogger who enjoys all things creative but is especially passionate about lifestyle design. I blog over at mehlogy.com I love that I get to share my passion for healthy living, fashion, fitness, and travel with readers from all over the world.

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