As it happened: European Super League threatens to shake up 'beautiful game'

From Matias Grez, Rob Picheta, Ben Church and John Sinnott, CNN

Updated 5:22 p.m. ET, April 19, 2021
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9:06 a.m. ET, April 19, 2021

Former players label Super League 'greedy and callous' and call for points deductions

From CNN's Matias Grez

Former footballers Luis Figo and Gary Neville
Former footballers Luis Figo and Gary Neville Getty Images

Former Portugal international Luis Figo, considered one of the best midfielders of his generation, said the new plans for a Super League were "greedy and callous."

Figo played for Barcelona, Real Madrid and Inter Milan -- three of the Super League's 12 'founding members' -- and he warned of its potential impact on the sport.

Former Manchester United star Gary Neville -- who has been publicly critical of his old club since the announcement -- went a step further and suggested those involved should face punishments in their respective domestic leagues.

8:13 a.m. ET, April 19, 2021

Football fans find humor in their anger, mocking Super League clubs and firing some parting shots at Jose Mourinho

Tottenham Hotspur has confirmed that Jose Mourinho has been "relieved of his duties."
Tottenham Hotspur has confirmed that Jose Mourinho has been "relieved of his duties." Peter Powell/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

The Super League's founding clubs were at the sharp end of plenty of humor amid widespread anger at the proposed new competition.

A viral opinion piece for local British newspaper the News and Star, listing the "Reasons why a European Super League would be great for football," got to the point: "There aren't any. End of article."

Plenty of fans also took a dig at Jose Mourinho, whose dismissal from Tottenham Hotspur came hours after the club confirmed they were planning to join the league.

"Jose Mourinho is fired. He is the first of the European Super League managers to lose their job," former England striker Gary Lineker wrote.

"Harsh to sack Mourinho just after he qualified Spurs for the European Super League," journalist Henry Mance joked.

8:09 a.m. ET, April 19, 2021

‘I cannot remain silent:’ Soccer stars outspoken in criticizing Super League plans 

From CNN's Ben Church

PSG's Ander Herrera has condemned the new Super League plans.
PSG's Ander Herrera has condemned the new Super League plans. Aurelien Meunier/PSG/Getty Images

Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Ander Herrera has become one of the first top players to speak out against the new plans. 

PSG, backed by wealthy Qatari owners, is not one of the 12 founding members of the Super League.

Writing on Twitter, Herrera said: "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.

"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.” 

Former Arsenal and current Fenerbahce midfielder Mesut Ozil echoed Herrera's criticisms.

“Kids grow up dreaming to win the World Cup and the Champions League - not any Super League,” Ozil tweeted. 

“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.” 

7:53 a.m. ET, April 19, 2021

La Liga strongly condemns 'selfish, egotistical' proposed European Super League

From CNN's Aleks Klosok and Matias Grez

La Liga says it "strongly condemns" the newly-proposed Super League, calling it an "elitist European competition that attacks the principles of open competition and sporting merit which are at the heart of the domestic and European football pyramid."

The Super League's 15 top clubs would be immune to relegation from the competition, a principle feature that makes football around the world so competitive.

Under current rules of relegation and promotion based on on-the-field performance, any club in the football pyramid can hope to one day compete against the powerhouse teams in the top division.

Barcelona and Real Madrid, along with Atletico, are among the Super League's 'founding members.'
Barcelona and Real Madrid, along with Atletico, are among the Super League's 'founding members.' Javier Soriano/AFP/Getty Images

"La Liga defends this European tradition of football for all," it added. "The concept proposed by 12 European clubs destroys that dream, shutting the door to the top of European football, allowing in just an elite few.

"La Liga has a proud, 90-year history as an open, merit-based competition. Millions of fans around the world follow the 42 clubs of La Liga Santander and La Liga SmartBank. 

"The newly proposed top European competition is nothing more than a selfish, egotistical proposal designed to further enrich the already super rich. It will undermine the appeal of the whole game and have a deeply damaging impact on the immediate and future of La Liga, its member clubs, and all the entire footballing ecosystem."

La Liga also warned that this "destruction of the European football ecosystem will also ultimately cause the failure of this new competition and its participating clubs."

7:30 a.m. ET, April 19, 2021

Six English teams will have 'helped kill' the Premier League 'golden goose,' finance expert warns

By Rob Picheta

There are likely to be severe consequences for future Premier League television deals if six of its biggest clubs join the European Super League, an expert on money in football has warned.

Nick Harris, who runs the website sportingintelligence, said on Twitter it is "hard to quantify how significantly" the rupture in European football would diminish the league's lucrative TV deals, but that "the 6 will have helped kill their own golden goose," he wrote.

He cited the decreased jeopardy in Premier League matches, with only the threat of relegation or the promise of qualification to a weaker Champions League to play for.

"How much are broadcasters going to pay for (the Champions League) without 15 of the biggest clubs in Europe involved? A fraction of now," he added.

6:59 a.m. ET, April 19, 2021

US money men, a Russian oligarch and a sheikh are among owners of 12 breakaway clubs

From CNN's Rob Picheta

The 12 clubs plotting a breakaway from the European football structure are controlled by a wide array of mega-rich owners, many of whom have investments in other sports teams around the world.

Three of the six British teams involved have American owners. The Glazer family, which also owns the reigning NFL champion Tampa Bay Buccanneers, has run Manchester United since businessman Malcom Glazer, who died in 2014, bought the team in 2005. John W. Henry, founder of the Fenway Sports Group that owns the MLB’s Boston Red Sox, is at the helm of Liverpool. And Stan Kroenke’s holding company is behind Arsenal and a host of US franchises -- the most lucrative being the NFL’s LA Rams and the NBA’s Denver Nuggets.

Liverpool owner John W. Henry ahead of the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Norwich City in 2019.
Liverpool owner John W. Henry ahead of the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Norwich City in 2019. Michael Regan/Getty Images

Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich took over Chelsea in 2003 and his subsequent investment in transfers elevated the club to the top of the British game. A similar move by Sheikh Mansour, the deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, helped Manchester City climb into the football elite. Tottenham are the only British-owner Premier League team involved in the plans; British billionaire Joe Lewis is at the helm of that team.

Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona follow a presidential model that is largely unique within European football. Individuals run in hotly contested elections, voted for by the club's members, and are required to put hefty financial backing into the clubs if elected. Construction mogul Florentino Perez has been Real Madrid's President since 2009. Joan Laporta took over at the helm of Barcelona last month, after the tumultuous term of Josep Maria Bartomeu led to fears among fans that superstar Lionel Messi would leave the team.

Florentino Perez has been in charge at Real Madrid since 2009.
Florentino Perez has been in charge at Real Madrid since 2009. Eric Alonso/Getty Images

Atlético Madrid use a more traditional model; businessman Miguel Ángel Gil Marín owns a majority share in that team.

Inter Milan's Chinese owners, the Suning Holdings Group chaired by Zhang Jindong, took over from the Italian Moratti family in 2016. Their local rivals AC Milan have US owners; the investment firm Elliott Management Corporation, run by hedge fund manager Paul Singer, is behind the side.

Juventus, unlike most of the teams involved, have been owned by the industrialist Agnelli family for nearly a century. That group's fortunes were built on the back of the Fiat automobile firm, founded by Giovanni Agnelli in 1899.

6:45 a.m. ET, April 19, 2021

"War:" European media widely condemns proposed Super League

Ben Church

Newspapers across Europe have widely condemned the proposed Super League, waging "war" against those who have backed the move. 

Premier League teams Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Liverpool have been labeled the “shameless six” by British newspapers, with the Metro calling it a “Civil War”. 

The Mirror called the new league a “criminal act against fans,” while The Telegraph suggested those teams backing a breakaway will face expulsion from domestic competitions. 

In France, L’Equipe called it a “war of the rich” and criticized the clubs' owners for their greed, while Spanish paper AS labeled the news a “bombshell.” 

Italian newspapers were a little more subdued, focusing on the “birth” of the Super League with Corriere dello Sport calling it a “football revolution.”

6:36 a.m. ET, April 19, 2021

Spanish club Real Betis swiftly updates La Liga table

Matias Grez

La Liga club Real Betis wasted no time updating the league table on the front of its website ... to exclude Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.

Those three clubs are among the 12 'founding members' of the new Super League and UEFA, FIFA and La Liga have suggested they would no longer be able to compete domestically.

It looks like we have a new runaway La Liga winner ...

Real Betis
Real Betis

7:14 a.m. ET, April 19, 2021

Former Liverpool star predicts ‘collapse’ of football

By John Sinnott

Dejan Lovren of FC Zenit during Tinkoff Russian Premier Liga 11 round on October 17, 2020, in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
Dejan Lovren of FC Zenit during Tinkoff Russian Premier Liga 11 round on October 17, 2020, in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Anatoliy Medved/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

Croatian international Dejan Lovren used to play for Liverpool, one of the 12 clubs behind the breakaway European Super League.

Lovren won the Champions League and Premier League with Liverpool before signing for Russian club Zenit St. Petersburg.

In a tweet, Lovren said: "Football will be in the near future on a brink of complete collapse. Nobody is thinking about the bigger picture, only the financial side.

"I still believe we can solve this unpleasant situation."