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.

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."

Antonio Conte believes "sport must be meritocratic" but called on UEFA to reflect after the European Super League project Inter signed up to crumbled.

Inter were among the 12 teams from Serie A, the Premier League and LaLiga to on Sunday back the formation of a breakaway tournament.

However, following widespread criticism, the plans fell apart on Tuesday as clubs opted to pull out in the wake of significant backlash from supporters, politicians and the media.

The Nerazzurri announced prior to their Serie A meeting with Spezia on Wednesday they would no longer be taking part in the Super League.

Conte is confident the club have made the right decision, but he urged UEFA to understand why the teams wanted to step away from the Champions League.

"As a sporting man, I think we mustn't ever forget tradition. This is history and it should be respected," Conte told Sky Sport Italia.

"We mustn't forget the passion for sport, and sport must be meritocratic. We work to win and to earn something. Meritocracy must always be first and foremost.

"Having said that, everything that happened shows it's only right that UEFA reflect too. They organise tournaments, take all the revenue and reserve only a minimal part of that for the teams who are actually taking part in these tournaments.

"The players are squeezed like lemons with this packed fixture list and get very little for it. The organisations need to consider better remuneration. Clubs invest in coaches and players, so they deserve some of the revenue they help to generate.

"If you get 10 from rights and keep seven of it for yourself, giving out just three to everybody else, that's not really fair. I think the split needs to be reconsidered."

UEFA announced on Monday that a new format for the Champions League would come into effect in 2024, with the competition expanding to accommodate 36 teams.

Instead of being split into groups, qualifying clubs will be part of a single league and play a minimum of 10 games rather than six.

Asked for his opinion of the new set-up, Conte replied: "I haven't really reflected on the format. It doesn't matter how many teams are in there, the important thing is that there is meritocracy, otherwise sport loses its meaning.

"Meritocracy is the most important thing, but also the organisations including those who run the international fixtures need to consider spreading out the resources a little better."

Inter were held to a 1-1 draw at Spezia but extended their lead at the top of Serie A to 10 points due to Milan's 2-1 home defeat to Sassuolo earlier in the day.

"Pressure is inevitable, and let's not forget that many players are challenging for something important for the first time. They are doing very well and I think we could easily have deserved the win," said Conte.

"I was happy with the intensity of the performance, though we could've had more quality in the final third, which is why we're talking about a draw rather than a win.

"There are fewer rounds left. We can see the finish line and the pressure is taking its toll.

"We used up a lot of energy and have another physical game coming up against [Hellas] Verona [on Sunday]."

Erling Haaland will remain at Borussia Dortmund regardless of where they finish in the Bundesliga this season, according to sporting director Michael Zorc.

Dortmund are in danger of missing out on Champions League qualification from the Bundesliga and it has been suggested that could result in Haaland moving on.

The 20-year-old has scored 51 goals and supplied 11 assists in 55 appearances in all competitions since arriving at Dortmund from Salzburg in January 2020.

Those goalscoring exploits have seen him linked with a host of major European clubs, including Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester City, Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain to name but a few.

He was unable to find the back of the net in Wednesday's 2-0 victory over Union Berlin, with Marco Reus opening the scoring on the rebound after the Norway international had a first-half penalty saved.

Dortmund remain four points adrift of fourth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt with four Bundesliga games remaining, but Zorc is confident of holding onto Haaland even if they miss out on a place in next season's Champions League.

"We have made our position clear on the Haaland case," Zorc told Sky Sport.

"The decision will not be made without Borussia Dortmund. No matter where we end up, Erling will continue to play for us."

Raphael Guerreiro wrapped up the win for Dortmund late on against Union, but a booking for Mats Hummels ruled him out of the crunch weekend meeting with third-placed Wolfsburg.

Stefano Pioli did not take the opportunity to highlight Milan's involvement in the European Super League saga as a distraction after their 2-1 defeat to Sassuolo.

The Rossoneri were among 12 elite clubs - including three from Serie A - to sign up for the controversial breakaway competition on Sunday.

An angry response from fans, players, coaches, governing bodies, governments and the media prompted several outfits to rethink, though, with England's 'big six' all backing out on Tuesday.

Milan followed suit on Wednesday, confirming their withdrawal just five hours before kick-off against Sassuolo.

With their place in a continental tournament no longer secured as a result, Pioli's side have work to do to qualify for the Champions League.

Milan are second but the loss to Sassuolo, having led through Hakan Calhanoglu, opens the door for fifth-placed Napoli to close to within three points if they win their game in hand against Lazio.

Giacomo Raspadori was Sassuolo's two-goal match-winner, but Pioli chose not to look for an excuse.

"It did not affect us," he told Sky Sport. "We did not let ourselves be distracted by anything.

"We are focused on our goal. These are things that we have not decided and we have not talked about."

Pioli was asked about comments made by Milan technical director Paolo Maldini before the game in which the Rossoneri great apologised for the club's Super League involvement despite insisting he had no knowledge of the discussions.

"I don't think anyone could have had any doubts about Paolo's moral integrity," Pioli said.

"He has many values, he expressed himself for what he feels. If he said those things, it means that he has these feelings."

Maldini had said: "I have never been involved in the discussions related to the Super League.

"I only heard the news on Sunday, like all of you, through the joint communications that have been published.

"It's something that's been decided at a higher level than my role. In any case, this does not exempt me from taking responsibility for apologising to Milan fans who have felt betrayed in the fundamental principles of sport that we have always respected."

He added: "It is normal that in 2021 a manager [director] of a great team cannot fail to know that revenues and sustainability are important concepts.

"But if we can learn a lesson from this story it is to have understood how far we can go.

"[We can] definitely not change the principles of sport that consist of meritocracy and dreams that must be guaranteed to everyone."

Manchester City's involvement in the swiftly aborted European Super League means their ex-chairman David Bernstein does not think they deserve to win the Champions League this season.

Pep Guardiola's side continue their bid for elusive European glory when they face Paris Saint-Germain in a mouth-watering semi-final next week, although the prospects of the fixture even taking place appeared to be in jeopardy after City were one of 12 teams announced for the controversial breakaway Super League three days ago.

A concerted backlash throughout and beyond football led to the Premier League leaders becoming the first team to officially withdraw from the project on Tuesday, with the other five England clubs involved following suit.

Former FA chairman Bernstein, who helmed City as they rebuilt from relegation to the third tier of English football at the end of the last century, is a lifelong supporter of the club, but feels let down and surprised by their actions.

PSG are the only team remaining in this season's Champions League who were not one of the Super League 12 and, when asked by Stats Perform News whether UEFA might prefer the Ligue 1 giants to prevail, Bernstein replied: "Listen at the moment I may be wishing myself PSG win it, I am so upset with City. They don't deserve to win it this year, given what's has happened."

The well-documented financial struggles of the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona were a key factor in them and others pursuing the money-spinning tournament, although Berntein pointed out that is not an excuse City and their Abu Dhabi ownership can so readily grasp.

"I'm extremely disappointed and embarrassed and a little surprised," he said. "They're good owners, the people at City, I think. They don't need the money, frankly.

"One or two other clubs do need the money. There is one club in particular, who will remain nameless, who've got above about billion pound of debt and must be pretty desperate with COVID and everything else that has caused income to go down."

Last year, partially in response to the challenges of the pandemic, Bernstein was part of an eight-person group also including Gary Neville and Great Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, that put forward a "Manifesto for Change", which called for a new regulatory body independent of English football's existing structure.

He believes the Super League episode underlines the need for football to make drastic change at a moment when, for now, disaster has been averted.

"Why are some of these clubs like Barcelona and Real Madrid, with all their wealth and income, in such financial difficulty? Because they're paying massive wages in spite of COVID, in spite of income having been reduced for all the reasons we know.

"Why hasn't there been some wage sacrifice? Why haven't wages been controlled? In any other industry, one would have to cut expenditure to match income.

"[The Super League being stopped] is highly significant. Everyone pays lip service to this but football clubs are more than straightforward businesses. They are incredibly important in their communities. Fans have to be treated with respect and not exploited.

"Clubs always go on about not exploiting fans but, actually, in many cases they do – in terms of the size of ticket prices, the cost of merchandise and so on."

Bernstein did reserve praise for City manager Guardiola, who decried the Super League plans as "not sport" at a news conference on Tuesday, in what was arguably a key moment as momentum built towards the eventual collapse.

"Pep is in a strong position, he is almost untouchable. It's very good that he did it, as Jurgen Klopp did as well," he added.

"They have contractual positions with their clubs and you have others who won't speak out, and I've got some sympathy when they are employees and livelihoods are at stake.

"For anyone who spoke out, good luck to them and it was good that Pep Guardiola did it."

Avram Grant believes the owners of Europe's top clubs must learn football is completely different to the NBA.

Former Chelsea and West Ham manager Grant is thrilled that the breakaway continental competition – which would have rivalled UEFA's Champions League and impacted the future of domestic pyramids – has fallen through.

All six English clubs involved withdrew on Tuesday, prompting Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli to acknowledge on Wednesday the project was effectively over as further teams rushed to the exit.

Grant feels the saga was a huge victory for football supporters.

He pointed out how the sport is different to any others, which may have surprised some of the American owners as they tried to force through a project that would have guaranteed the involvement of founding clubs every year.

"They [the owners] compare it the NBA, but it is not a good comparison," Grant said to Stats Perform News.

"What they say is not right. This is not the NBA - there is a draft in the NBA.

"Of course, they misjudged it as they don't come from football. Take the three Americans. I met one of them, fantastic person but they don't know the nature of the game. 

"In football, one plus one is not two. The decision making is different. Football is a game of emotions. The game is not pure business. It's a lot of passion. 

"Supporters are paying money and I'm so happy about the reaction of the PM [prime minister, Boris Johnson] and of Prince William who I know and really like. 

"It's a lesson for all the owners, money is important but the passion needs to stay as it is. They will learn their lesson, they are clever guys. 

"We love that Leicester City became champions – you cannot take Euro opportunities from clubs. 

"And even the LA Lakers don't always get a place in the playoffs, they need to work for it."

Grant was pleased to see his former boss – Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich – among the first to withdraw following fan protests at Stamford Bridge.

He insisted the Russian should not take all of the blame for signing up as he must have been badly advised.

Grant added: "I'm very happy about that as I know him, he took a step back.

"And it's not just Roman, but the people around the owners. Where have you been? You need to tell them [the owners]. 

"It was the wrong decision and I'm very happy about their reaction. 

"Football can be improved, I understand the big clubs, some of the things they are asking for are right, but this decision [to try a Super League] is very wrong.

"I was not shocked [by the idea] because you know big clubs have been speaking about it for a long time, but I was shocked they did it. 

"I understand where they are coming from financially but they have tried to create classes in football, when instead you have to prove yourself on the pitch. 

"Imagine if I told a squad, quality doesn't matter, you five players will play always!

"UEFA need to find a solution with big clubs to keep the balance [between finance and sport]. They need to keep the nature of the football." 

Grant was asked about the future of Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, who was poised to lead the Super League as its chairman.

He added: "No more Super League, forget it, it will not happen. I said to Florentino Perez: forget it! It’s not good for you! 

"I understand what he tried to do, but it was wrong. He can stay – but if he still thinks it is the right way to go and destroys football then that is something else. 

"It's a big, big victory for the supporters. Football comes from the heart. 

"It's a victory for the people. This is the biggest victory. In democracy people vote, this is democracy and the people said no. 

"We don't want Real Madrid v Liverpool every day. You can't give an advantage to any player to play. I can't just play Didier Drogba because I like him! Only because he is good. 

"So, it is a big, big victory for the people."

The Atletico Madrid players have released a statement to "convey our satisfaction" after the club withdrew from the European Super League.

Atletico were among 12 clubs who announced plans for the controversial new competition on Sunday.

But the tournament – a rival to the Champions League but with guaranteed participation for its founding members – quickly came under scrutiny.

Anger from fans, players, coaches, governing bodies, governments and the media soon prompted England's 'big six' to back out. Atleti followed, along with Inter and Milan.

Koke, the Atleti captain, posted on his Twitter page on Wednesday: "From the Atletico Madrid squad, we want to convey our satisfaction about the final decision to renounce the Super League project made by our club.

"We will continue fighting to help Atleti grow from our position through the values of effort and sporting merit that have always characterised us, so that all of you continue to see yourself reflected in those signs of identity.

"We continue to work hard, focused on the game tomorrow."

Speaking before Thursday's LaLiga clash with Huesca, Atleti coach Diego Simeone had earlier backed the club both in their decision to pursue the Super League and then to step back.

"I understood that the club was going to decide what was best for the club," he said. "The club has looked at our fans, employees, players, president – the Atletico family."

Simeone added: "We understand that this situation [the withdrawal] is good for everyone. We all belong to football – before being footballers and coaches, we are fans."

Former Manchester United player and coach Nicky Butt has accused the "powerful people" involved in the European Super League launch of "the worst case of bullying".

United were among 12 clubs who announced on Sunday plans to start a controversial new continental competition to rival the Champions League.

By Tuesday, however, United and each of the other five English sides invited had withdrawn from the tournament amid huge pressure both inside and outside the clubs.

Butt was the head of first-team development in United's academy as recently as last month but did not hold back in his criticism, dismissing any subsequent apologies as "irrelevant".

"I don't think an apology is too great anyway, if I'm honest," the ex-Newcastle United captain told Sky Sports. "I think what happened should never have happened.

"What happened is the worst case of bullying, in my opinion, from powerful people, so whether they apologise or not is irrelevant to me really."

Ed Woodward, United's executive vice-chairman, announced on Tuesday he will depart at the end of 2021, although Stats Perform News understands it was an amicable move unrelated to the Super League.

The project prompted backlash from fans, players, coaches, governing bodies, governments and the media.

Above Woodward, the Glazer family at United and fellow American owners at Liverpool and Arsenal were credited with playing key roles.

"It's a lesson to people who come into the country and come into powerful football clubs and think that they can do whatever they want because they are owners and they are very, very wealthy," Butt said.

"Over the last few hours in this country, it has proved not to be the case."

Butt was speaking for the first time since leaving his role at United and said: "It was just a personal choice to leave the club because I felt like it was my time to go and explore other opportunities.

"Obviously, with what has gone on over the last few days, it looks like there was a reason I left, but that wasn't the reason.

"My reason for leaving was purely to accept new challenges that will hopefully come soon.

"I love the club. Always have, always will."

Sam Allardyce wants to see greater protection put in place to guard the Premier League from further attempts to form a European Super League.

England's top flight came under threat this week after its 'big six' announced plans to launch the controversial new continental competition.

The Super League would have replaced the Champions League for those involved, rather than the Premier League, but the clubs would be guaranteed participation, impacting the domestic structure which currently provides a path into Europe.

The remaining 14 Premier League outfits voted "unanimously and vigorously" against the proposal, however.

And by the close of play on Tuesday, all six English sides had backtracked, announcing plans to pull out of the Super League, which prompted European rivals to follow.

Former England manager Allardyce – now in charge at West Brom – does not feel the danger has passed.

"In that format, it's dead," he said. "But in other formats, it's on hold."

The Baggies boss took aim at the American owners of Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal as he outlined the need to protect "the best league in the world" against future breakaway bids.

Allardyce compared the Super League, which would not have featured demotion for founding clubs, to competitions in the United States like the NFL, NBA or MLB.

"The lessons to be learned are now down to the governing bodies, who run our game," he said.

"Unless we learn those lessons very quickly, unless we put better protection into the structure of our game, we are still ready to be seeing something like this yet again and again.

"This is not a new idea, by any stretch of the imagination. It may have been a new format, but this has been talked about for many years, believe you me.

"The bigger boys have been trying to get the bigger share of the pot for many years. Luckily, because of the 14 votes required in the Premier League, that has been resisted and rightly so.

"Now, they've chosen to go behind people's backs and try to find a better solution just for them and only them and not for football in general.

"It's a great shame that when we have the best league in the world that raises the most money in the world that six of our clubs in the Premier League chose to desert that format.

"Why would you want to desert the best league in the world, the most-watched league in the world, the most entertaining league in the world? The best players, the best managers and coaches – why would you want to destroy that?

"I find that [is] because individuals have come together, and in particular this stinks of the American system trying to be put in place, for me.

"Obviously three of the six are American-based, and when you see the format in America – no relegation, no promotion – that's exactly what this alludes to and you can see where it's probably come from."

Allardyce called for "better rules and regulations" to "avoid this situation again", while he was also asked about possible sanctions for the 'big six'.

When Super League plans were still in place, the idea of expelling the sides was mooted. Potential points deductions continue to be discussed.

"If we all break the rules, we all get sanctioned," Allardyce said. "If I breach any rules, I get sanctioned for it; if clubs break any rules, they get sanctioned for it.

"Obviously, in this case, they've broken the rules so they need to be looked at. What form of punishment? I don't know.

"But certainly, if you've broken the rules, you have to pay for that."

Juventus remain convinced over the validity of a European Super League but admit the planned breakaway competition cannot possibly go ahead following a raft of withdrawals.

Milan followed Serie A rivals Inter in pulling out on Wednesday, as did Spanish side Atletico Madrid in a move welcomed by head coach Diego Simeone.

All six English teams – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham – ended their involvement on Tuesday following widespread criticism of the proposal, including from some of their own players and coaches.

Juve president Andrea Agnelli confirmed to Reuters that the mass exodus of the Premier League contingent had effectively ended the possibility of a Super League going ahead – for now at least.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the Bianconeri made clear the necessary procedures required for clubs to end their involvement have yet to be completed, as well as outlining how such a tournament still has merit from a sporting and commercial viewpoint.

"With reference to the press release issued by Juventus on April 19, relating to the project to create the Super League, and the subsequent public debate, the issuer specifies that it is aware of the request and intentions otherwise expressed by some clubs to withdraw from this project, although the necessary procedures under the agreement between the clubs have not been completed," a statement read.

"In this context, Juventus, while remaining convinced of the validity of the sporting, commercial and legal assumptions of the project, believes that it currently has limited possibilities of being completed in the form in which it was initially conceived.

"Juventus remains committed to building long-term value for the club and for the entire football movement."

Milan's U-turn came after taking into consideration the reaction from supporters to the tournament. The founding members would have been involved each season regardless of their performances in domestic leagues, a rule that received widespread condemnation.

"We accepted the invitation to participate in the Super League project with the genuine intention to deliver the best possible European competition for football fans around the world and in the best interest of the club and our own fans," Milan said in a statement.

"Change is not always easy, but evolution is necessary for progress, and the structures of European football have evolved and changed over the decades.

"However, the voices and the concerns of fans around the world have clearly been expressed about the Super League, and Milan must be sensitive to the voice of those who love this wonderful sport.

"We will continue to work hard to deliver a sustainable model for football."

Diego Simeone was not prepared to criticise Atletico Madrid chiefs nor the premise of the European Super League following the proposed competition's collapse but backed the decision to withdraw.

Atletico were one of the 12 founding clubs to initially sign up for the tournament, which was announced on Sunday, but their plans crumbled within 48 hours.

The backlash was significant on Monday and then Tuesday proved pivotal, as English clubs took note of the passionate response from fans, media, players and coaches.

Manchester City became the first to withdraw, followed by Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham. Atletico, Inter and Milan followed on Wednesday

Atletico boss Simeone did not take the opportunity to openly criticise the plans during a press conference on the eve of Thursday's LaLiga clash with Huesca, as Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola did in previous days, but accepted it was the right decision.

Speaking of his talks with Atletico CEO Miguel Angel Gil Marin, Simeone said: "Going into what he told us is not appropriate, but we saw doubts about this situation and what happened later, last night, when the clubs began to leave the Super League.

"I was told after the last game, I understood that the club was going to decide what was best for the club. The club has looked at our fans, employees, players, president – the Atletico family."

When pressed for his own opinion, Simeone added: "Listen to what I said before. I was clear, concrete and true. There is nothing to hide.

"I was one of the first to be consulted after the match and I said that I absolutely trusted the club because they were going to do what was best for the club. We understand that this situation [the withdrawal] is good for everyone. We all belong to football – before being footballers and coaches, we are fans.

"They have known me for a long time, I do not like demagoguery or taking advantage of situations to strengthen myself.

"What I think, I tell the people I have to talk to. I do not like to express myself here."

Simeone still expects the events of the past few days to contribute to significant change in European football.

"Faced with seismic movements like this, something is going to change, for sure, I have no doubt," he said. "And for the better, don't get me wrong.

"When there are movements, the parties will have to get closer and find what everyone wants or wanted before."

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