Real Madrid suffered another setback in the title race as they were held to a 0-0 draw at home to Real Betis in LaLiga on Saturday.

Zinedine Zidane's men would have gone top – ahead of Atletico Madrid due to a better head-to-head record – at least until Sunday had they beaten Betis, but their inability to find a way past Claudio Bravo means they could end the weekend five points behind the leaders.

The contest did not truly come to life until the second half and Madrid could easily have found themselves trailing, with Guido Rodriguez and Borja Iglesias guilty of wasting great chances.

Opportunities of a similar quality were by no means a regular occurrence for Madrid, who will hoping Athletic Bilbao can do them a favour against Atletico on Sunday, with the four-way Spanish title race looking set for a thrilling conclusion.

Madrid got very little out of Betis in what was a largely cagey first half that saw only one shot on target.

That chance fell to Karim Benzema in the 25th minute, as the Frenchman had his effort turned around the post by Bravo.

Former Madrid youngster Sergio Canales went close at the other end soon after, narrowly missing the left-hand post with a 20-yard effort.

The hosts almost got lucky nine minutes into the second half as Rodrygo's cross hit the crossbar with Bravo seemingly beaten.

Though they should have found themselves trailing a few moments later.

Rodriguez did the hard part as he raced past Eder Militao and Raphael Varane, but upon penetrating the penalty area he hit a scuffed left-footed shot straight at the relieved Thibaut Courtois.

Iglesias then spurned an even better opportunity on the break, Courtois blocking the ball as the striker attempted to prod it past him after Canales' pinpoint cross.

Much like Rodriguez, Vinicius Junior failed to apply the decisive finish after a brilliant run of his own, following it up with a feeble effort that caused Bravo no worries.

Florentino Perez says the clubs who claimed this week to have abandoned the European Super League remain contractually tied to the project.

The Real Madrid president, who has been a driving force and staunch defender of the controversial breakaway, says those that signed up "can't leave", even if they say they have quit the league.

Twelve teams declared last Sunday that they had committed to the Super League, but on Tuesday all six Premier League clubs announced they had quit. Inter and Atletico Madrid soon followed, Milan may also withdraw, while Juventus remain advocates of the league but have acknowledged its collapse.

Real Madrid and Barcelona very much remain, but for all the merits of Clasico clashes, they need other clubs to firmly commit.

Perez was asked in an interview with Spanish newspaper AS whether it was true that clubs would have to buy themselves out of binding contracts.

He said: "I'm not going to take my time to explain what a binding contract is here. But the fact is, the clubs can't leave.

"Some, because of the pressure, have had to say they'll leave. But this project, or something very similar, will happen, and I hope it's in the near future."

Supporters, players, coaches, politicians and even royalty have come out in opposition of the plans, with the 'closed-shop' nature of the Super League, whereby the 12 founding clubs would be guaranteed continuing membership, being criticised as an anti-competitive concept.

UEFA and FIFA, the long-time governing bodies of the European and world game, have been scathing and pointed to the possibility of punishments being imposed on the clubs involved.

Perez vowed the Super League has not yet been killed off and is merely a sleeping project, poised to be resurrected.

"The entity exists and the members who make up the Super League are there too," he said.

"What we've done is given ourselves a few weeks to reflect on the hostility with which certain people who don't want to lose their privileges have manipulated the project."

He said financial backers JP Morgan remain involved, despite the investment banking firm stating it "clearly misjudged" the depth of feeling that would be stirred in the football community by the league.

"They've taken time to reflect, like the 12 clubs," Perez said. "If something needs to be changed, it'll be changed, but the Super League is the best project we've thought can be carried out."

Perez said he was baffled by UEFA's Champions League expansion plans, announced on Monday, which will see 36 teams rather than the current 32 compete from the 2024-25 season, each guaranteed at least 10 games per season, and he said the start date was too far away.

Madrid, Barcelona and all major European clubs have been hit heavily financially by the COVID-19 crisis, with major revenue streams such as matchday income cut off.

Perez said there was a danger that "all the clubs go bankrupt" unless there is immediate action.

Is Ibrahima Konate bound for Anfield?

The 21-year-old defender has caught the eye of both Liverpool and Manchester United.

But, the Merseyside club appear set to win the race for his signature.

 

TOP STORY – KONATE HEADING TO ANFIELD

Liverpool have agreed a deal to sign Ibrahima Konate from RB Leipzig, according to the Guardian.

Konate had also been linked with Premier League rivals Manchester United, who are eyeing a new centre-back at Old Trafford.

But Liverpool have reportedly agreed a five-year contract with Konate, who has a €35million (£30.5m) release clause.

 

ROUND-UP

- The front page of Saturday's Mundo Deportivo reports Barcelona want to offer a new and improved contract to teenage sensation Ansu Fati, which would keep him at Camp Nou until 2026. The 18-year-old, previously linked to United, until at least 2022, with the option to extend it by a further two years.

- What does the future hold for Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma? The 22-year-old Italy star's contract is set to expire at the end of the season and he is yet to re-sign at San Siro amid links with United, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Real Madrid. While Milan remain hopeful of keeping Donnarumma, Calciomercato says they have begun conversations with Lille's Mike Maignan.

Milan, Inter and Roma are eyeing Torino captain and star forward Andrea Belotti, claims Calciomercato.

- Fabrizio Romano reports Manchester City are set to sign Metinho in the same deal with Fluminense team-mate Kayky.

Madrid remain optimistic about the possibility of signing Kylian Mbappe from PSG, according to Le Parisien. Mbappe has been tipped to join Los Blancos, who have also been linked with Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland.

Florentino Perez remains adamant the European Super League must go ahead as "football is severely damaged", with the Real Madrid president suggesting the possibility of the top-four teams from each country featuring in the breakaway competition.

Plans for a Super League to rival UEFA's Champions League were announced on Sunday, with 12 founding members – Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham, Juventus, Inter and Milan.

But after widespread criticism from UEFA, FIFA, clubs, governments, fans and pundits, all six Premier League clubs pulled out, while Atletico, Inter, Milan and Juve followed suit.

Perez – who had been appointed as chairman of the competition – has continued to stress the need for the Super League and he flagged the idea of moving away from an exclusive group of clubs.

"These things get manipulated," Perez told Diario AS, with the full interview to be published on Saturday. "It is not a plan which excludes club and nor is it designed to go against other leagues.

"The Super League project is the best possible solution, and it has been created to help football get out of the crisis. Football is severely damaged because its economy has been ruined and it has to adapt to the new era we are living in. The Super League does not go against domestic competitions and its objective is to ensure that more money is available for all sections of football. The concept is to generate more interest for the games. Nor do I think that the changes which UEFA have made are a real solution to the problem because what has been proposed isn't even an improvement on the current model.

"Also, we cannot wait until 2024. But in any case, we must have done something badly. We are going to try to turn this around and develop more ideas. Maybe the solution is for the top four teams in every league to play. I don't know, but something needs to be done because today's youth, those between 14 and 24 years of age, are abandoning football because they see it as being boring compared to the other forms of entertainment which they prefer.

"There are four billion football fans all over the world and half of them are fans of the clubs in the Super League. Football is the only global sport."

Perez added: "Lets look at the data: a recent report by KPMG - in the first three months of the pandemic alone last season, the 12 clubs in the Super League reported losses of 650 million euros.

"By the end of this season, with the pandemic still ongoing, the losses will be between 2,000 and 2,500 million euros. Girondins [Bordeaux] have recently gone into administration. Either we do something soon or many more clubs will go under."

Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane has hit back at UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin's claim that next week's Champions League semi-final against Chelsea might not go ahead.

Ceferin said there was a chance Madrid could be denied the opportunity to continue their bid for a 14th European crown after their president Florentino Perez refused to renounce his plans for a breakaway Super League, despite eight of the 12 teams initially signed up swiftly withdrawing from the project.

Speaking to Slovenian station 24UR, Ceferin conceded there was only "a relatively small possibility that the match isn’t played" but this was enough to draw Zidane's ire.

"It's illogical," he said at a news conference to preview Saturday's LaLiga match against Real Betis.

"We are going to play the Champions League, we have the right and we are going to play it.

"It is an absurd matter. I am not going to go into that. I can only tell you that we are going to prepare to play the Champions League semi-final.

"We have a league game and then we have time for the semi-final. I am not worried.

"They said a lot of things about this matter but we are going to play our semi-final as [we have] the right to play."

Perez has been widely ridiculed after a pair of scattergun media appearances in defence of the Super League – a matter Zidane again sought to prevent his own opinions and Madrid future becoming intertwined with.

"I do not know what will happen in a month or two months. I want to finish the season well and then we will talk about the future and what is going to happen," he said.

"At the moment we are focused on the day to day and tomorrow's game.

"As always, we [Zidane and Perez] talk from time to time and that's it. He comes here to see the team, everyone.

"Nothing has changed. We know where the president is. He wants us to focus on tomorrow's game."

Zidane will welcome back injury-plagued forward Eden Hazard for Betis' visit to Madrid, while Luka Modric is also set to return having missed the 3-0 midweek win over Cadiz due to a back complaint.

Club captain Sergio Ramos and Ferland Mendy are out with calf problems but Zidane is hopeful each can play a part against Chelsea.

"I see [Ramos] well, emotionally very well," he said. "He has had problems but he is better.

"He is not with us yet but he has a few days left. I am happy, because we always want him with us. I see him well, little by little. Some workouts are missing. " 

On Mendy, Zidane added: "He will not be there tomorrow. For Ferland it is day to day. I hope he will be with us on Tuesday, but not tomorrow. It is not much [of a problem], it is a matter of days." 

Defending champions Madrid are three points shy of Atletico Madrid at the top of LaLiga with six matches remaining.

Mikel Arteta believes Arsenal fans are the soul of the club as the Premier League side seek to rebuild relationships in the aftermath of the European Super League debacle.

Arsenal were one of six English top-flight teams to sign up to the doomed breakaway project, hastily withdrawing alongside all their Premier League counterparts on Tuesday amid a backlash from fans, players, football authorities and even national governments.

Chief executive Vinai Venkatesham and director Josh Kroenke received a severe grilling when attempting to apologise to an Arsenal fans forum this week and protests outside Emirates Stadium are expected to precede Friday's game against Everton.

Arteta, a popular figure during his playing days with the Gunners, insists the fans have the respect of himself and his players after making their voices heard during a tumultuous episode.

"We want to listen to them, we totally respect them. They've been loud and clear and they've been heard," he said.

"They're going to be heard all the time because they are the soul of this football club and the soul of this industry.

"We're going to try to do the best we can to make them proud all the time and make their lives better by playing the way we want to play, winning football matches and trophies.

"That's our responsibility. If they can help in any way it is by giving support to the team because that is going to have an immense effect. It is so powerful and they have to realise that."

If anything, the spectacle of fans congregating outside stadia makes Arteta pine for a return to pre-pandemic normality, describing football behind closed doors as a "different sport".

"I want fans, I want to have that feeling that we are competing and have feeling behind us," he added.

"If not, it is a different sport. Let's get back to where we were before the pandemic and enjoy football in a different way."

JP Morgan, the investment bank who had agreed to back the breakaway European Super League, has vowed to learn from a saga it "clearly misjudged".

The New York-based company was said to have committed €3.25billion to fund the controversial project.

But plans for the competition, which was officially revealed by the 12 founding clubs last weekend, fell through within 48 hours of the announcement after England's 'big six' pulled out.

Pressure from fans, players, coaches, governing bodies, governments and the media built up on the clubs due to the anti-competitive nature of a tournament intended to rival UEFA's Champions League model.

The dozen founders would have been guaranteed participation each year regardless of performances in their domestic leagues.

Only LaLiga giants Real Madrid and Barcelona still appear committed to the proposal with Juventus - keen supporters, led by chairman Andrea Agnelli - acknowledging the initial version of the Super League will not work.

JP Morgan said in a statement released on Friday: "We clearly misjudged how this deal would be viewed by the wider football community and how it might impact them in the future. We will learn from this."

Sustainability rating agency Standard Ethics had earlier downgraded JP Morgan from an "adequate" rating to "non-compliant" following the episode.

"Standard Ethics judges both the orientations shown by the football clubs involved in the project and those of the US bank to be contrary to sustainability best practices," it said.

Between 2003 and 2009, Cristiano Ronaldo won three Premier League titles and the Champions League among other honours at Manchester United.

Ronaldo has since gone on to play for Real Madrid and Juventus, but he could be set for an Old Trafford reunion.

Watch this space…

 

TOP STORY – UNITED MAKE RONALDO CONTACT

Manchester United have made contact with Cristiano Ronaldo's agent Jorge Mendes over a return to Old Trafford, according to the front page of Friday's Gazzetta dello Sport.

Juventus superstar Ronaldo has been tipped to leave Turin, where he arrived in 2018, amid links with former clubs United and Real Madrid, as well as Paris Saint-Germain.

Ronaldo, who starred for United between 2003 and 2009, would have to take a wage cut in order to make a Manchester reunion a reality.

 

ROUND-UP

- Diario AS claims Madrid are willing to sell Raphael Varane in order to raise transfer funds amid strong links with Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland and PSG star Kylian Mbappe. Varane has been linked with United and Chelsea.

- Staying at the Santiago Bernabeu, and AS says the future of captain Sergio Ramos looks less likely to be at Madrid. The likes of United and PSG have emerged as possible destinations for the superstar Spain skipper.

Barcelona are prioritising the signing of Lyon captain Memphis Depay, reports RMC Sport. Juventus have also been linked.

Rodrigo De Paul is wanted by Leeds United, Juve, Inter and Napoli, according to Calciomercato. Juve have been eyeing the Udinese star, but the Italian giants are also weighing up moves for United's Paul Pogba and Sassuolo midfielder Manuel Locatelli.

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.

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."

President Javier Tebas insists LaLiga will not punish Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid for launching the European Super League, as "these clubs have been sanctioned by their own fans".

Spain's three biggest clubs said on Sunday they would be involved in a controversial breakaway competition that looked set to rival the Champions League.

But those plans fell through within just two days as pressure applied to England's 'big six' prompted them to back out, soon followed by Atleti.

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez remains committed to the project, even if there is no clear route forward, while Barca's Joan Laporta still claims it is "absolutely necessary".

UEFA had threatened to banish clubs and players who signed up to the Super League, which was criticised for its closed nature. Talk of punishment has since dissipated, however.

At domestic level, calls for the six Premier League clubs to be deducted points have so far brought no result.

And Tebas, who declared the Super League "dead", has now confirmed LaLiga will not sanction Madrid, Barca or Atleti, suggesting each was already embarrassed by the response to their grand plans.

"We are not talking about sanctions," Tebas told the media on Thursday. "Everyone wants to cut people's heads off. We have to have a procedure and we have to see how it looks in the end. We have to see how it all works out.

"I'm talking about other types of agreements. We shouldn't rush into anything. I think a very important thing is that these clubs have been sanctioned by their own fans. Their reputations have been affected."

That did not prevent Tebas from criticising the clubs, though, adding his voice to those questioning comments from Perez.

The Madrid chief claimed the proposals would help the rest of the football world, but Tebas feels secretive meetings suggest otherwise.

"They can't tell us they're coming to save us from ruin," Tebas said. "It's not true. Nor that they do not harm national competitions. They do, economically and sportingly. If it was that good for football, they wouldn't have done it behind our backs."

Tebas was speaking as LaLiga released a statement confirming the clubs that were not invited to join the Super League had followed their Premier League counterparts in voting "unanimously and vigorously" against the competition.

"The opposition shown globally in recent days has shown that a closed and elitist European league is unworkable and unwanted," it read.

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."

Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta has applauded fans for killing the proposed European Super League with what he felt was arguably the "strongest message ever sent in the football world", likening the response to a "tsunami".

The Gunners were one of the 12 founding members of the planned Super League, a closed-shop competition that was announced on Sunday after years of speculation.

But the project never got off the ground as, within 48 hours of it being revealed, the plans were left in ruins as the six Premier League clubs pulled out.

Following an almost universal backlash, Manchester City – whose manager Pep Guardiola railed against the general concept – withdrew first, with Chelsea apparently preparing to do so at the same time.

Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham then released simultaneous statements later in the day confirming their disassociation with the tournament, which was set to rival the Champions League but guarantee participation for the founding clubs.

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, who was set to front the Super League as chairman, has insisted the plans are not dead, but with the English clubs issuing apologies to their supporters, the idea will take some resurrecting.

And Arteta, addressing the media for the first time since the initial announcement, applauded the actions of supporters in forcing the U-turn.

He said: "I think this has given a big lesson. It shows the importance of football in the world, and shows that the soul of this sport belongs to the fans, and that's it.

"We've been trying to sustain this industry with no fans in the pandemic, but when they have to come out and talk, they do so loud and clear and they sent probably the strongest message that has ever been sent in the football world.

"Every club has done the right thing, we have to listen to them [the fans]. In 24 hours they killed the project, it's a massive statement for the history of football.

"I found out just a little before the news was leaked. Then everything was out of control and the world reacted in a really unified manner. There was no time to think or reflect because by the time that was out, a tsunami killed it."

Arsenal were the first to issue an apology to supporters as they published an open letter from the board when their withdrawal was confirmed, while Arteta confirmed all club officials involved have apologised to him and the players.

Asked if an internal apology had been communicated, Arteta said: "Yes, from Vinai [Venkatesham, CEO], the ownership and everyone involved in the process, all of them with the right intentions to defend the club put the club in the best position for now and future, but accepting the way it has been handled has had terrible consequences and that it was a mistake.

"I have to really respect that when people have genuine intentions to do the best thing for the club but if it doesn't happen or isn't the right thing to do, they can stand up and apologise. I think the players and staff, we have to move on. The way it has been handled internally has been very good."

As for communication from the Kroenkes, the family that owns the club, Arteta added: "Absolutely [they apologised], they are the maximum responsible to run the football club.

"They apologised for disturbing the team and not having the capacity or ability to communicate in a different way earlier, explained the reasons why, and passed on the message to the players. That's all you can ask for and I have to accept completely."

It remains to be seen if there will be any punishment for Arsenal and the other clubs involved, as points deductions, fines and Champions League bans have all been mooted.

Arteta feels Arsenal have to be ready to face – and accept – the consequences of their actions.

"I don't know the legal details to respond to that," he said. "When you act, there are always consequences. I don't know the extent of those consequences.

"I think here we have to understand the principle and why those clubs were trying to achieve something, but if it wasn't done in the right way, there are always consequences and we'll have to accept that if there are."

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.

Real Madrid president Florentina Perez has revealed that the club has agreed a new contract with Luka Modric.

The 35-year-old Croatian midfielder, who joined Madrid from Tottenham in 2012, is out of contract in June.

Reports in January alleged that a new deal between Modric and Madrid had been agreed although nothing had ever been announced.

Perez confirmed those reports on Wednesday when discussing the European Super League, while also providing an update on out-of-contract Sergio Ramos.

"[Modric] has already signed or we have reached an agreement a long time ago," Perez said.

"Ramos is not in the same situation. We have spoken many times but I do not know, I do not want to blame anyone."

Perez refused to be drawn on 35-year-old club captain Ramos' future.

"I love him as if he were my son, I have done everything I could for him," Perez said.

"I am not going to tell you anything about Sergio Ramos. We are trying to close this season. Then we will talk about the next one."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.