Sports

Koeman blasts UEFA as ESL fallout continues

Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman has said UEFA are only focused on money and are ignoring managers and players after some of the game’s biggest clubs tried to break away from European football’s governing body this week.

Barca were one of 12 teams from Spain, England and Italy to announce their involvement in a European Super League on Sunday. That project has since crumbled after all six English sides involved pulled out on Tuesday.

UEFA, meanwhile, this week passed a resolution to expand the Champions League from 32 teams to 36, which will see teams play 10 group games instead of the six they currently play. Sixteen teams will then advance to the knockout stages.

“It’s unbelievable what players need to play in the last few years in all competitions,” Koeman said in a news conference when asked about the changes being suggested by both UEFA and the Super League.

“Everybody is talking about a Super League or a [new] Champions League or a different way of playing in Europe. UEFA is talking a lot, but it is not doing or listening to the football people, not the managers or the players, about the number of games. Most important for them is the money.

“Even in Spain, the number of games we need to play — tomorrow we play at 10 p.m. [CEST] — all of that is not always in a positive way for the players. I think that’s the most important. It’s normal to think about the future of football but first of all they have to protect the football players.”

Atletico Madrid and Inter Milan followed the six English sides in leaving the European Super League on Wednesday, while AC Milan and Juventus both released statements acknowledging it is unlikely to progress in its current format.

– Ogden: Super League idea comes at greatest expense to fans
– Marcotti: Super League suspended, why English clubs pulled out

However, Real Madrid, whose president Florentino Perez was due to be the league’s chairman, and Barca have not yet made any comment on the flagging project.

Sources at Barca told ESPN before Koeman’s news conference that the club had “no plans” to make any additional announcement regarding the league.

New president Joan Laporta has not yet spoken about the issue, either, although he did meet with the first team’s four captains, including Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique, to discuss the project on Wednesday.

A source says they agreed to wait and see what happens next, but everyone was unanimous that any final decision over joining a new competition would need the approval of the club’s members via a vote.

Barca’s silence meant Koeman was left to act as a makeshift spokesman on Wednesday. He was reluctant to give an opinion on the plans but did say he agreed with a tweet from defender Pique, which said: “football is for the fans, today more than ever.”

“I spoke with the president [on Tuesday] and he explained the club’s position,” the Dutch coach added. “But a lot has changed since then. It’s best not to say much now, no one knows what will happen.

“What I want most is the best for this club but I am in agreement with Pique’s tweet.”

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