By Tim Stannard
It's Florentino Perez vs. late-night network talk show hosts as the battle for the future of soccer gets serious
The forces on both sides are gathering. Even James Corden has joined the fray. When Jimmy Fallon takes a side...it's game over.
The battle raging is supposedly for the soul of soccer. In one camp, the 12 breakaway clubs who want to liberate themselves from the stifling clutches of UEFA and save soccer. On the other side - what appears to be the entire internet and a curious collection of soccer avengers, some with more moral superiority than others.
Two days since an announcement was made revealing plans for a European Super League of 20 (with 12 permanent members) to usurp the Champions League, and the arguments show no signs of slowing down.
The leader of the rebellion is Real Madrid president, Florentino Perez. On Monday night Perez spoke to Spanish TV show 'El Chiringuito' and explained to the tree-hugging, ivory tower-dwelling masses on why the move to set up a rival competition to the Champions League was made.
"We are doing this to save football," declared Perez in 'wake up people!' mode citing the billions collectively being lost by soccer clubs over COVID-19 impacts. "If we continue with the Champions League there is less and less interest and then it's over. The new format which starts in 2024 is absurd. In 2024, we are all dead."
⚽️🗯 "Football as an industry of entertainment needs something new."— beIN SPORTS USA (@beINSPORTSUSA) April 19, 2021
Iñaki Angulo outlines his reasons why the European Super League could actually be a good thing pic.twitter.com/rEMQvUTSHy
Tuesday sees yet more characters coming out against the proposed Super League including the president of the charitable, 'it's not about the money', organization, FIFA. "If they choose to go their own way, they must live with their choice. They are either in or out," said Gianni Infantino not quite threatening to ban players from FIFA competitions. Another sport-o-crat, Thomas Bach, who heads up the non-for-profit International Olympic Committee, was also sniffy.
Lucas Podolski for one doesn't like it. "The project is disgusting," says the Antalyaspor forward. And nor does Leeds coach, Marcelo Bielsa - "the real owners of football are the ones who love the badge. Without them football would disappear."
Then there's David Beckham, who bought a franchise in the closed shop MLS while hundreds of another clubs are barred entry - "we need football to be fair and we need competitions based on merit." Ahem.
When the Kardashians pick a side, that's when Sports Burst will get in line one way or another.
Copa Libertadores starts super-speed sizzle reel of South American soccer
While all this hullaballoo continues in the background, world soccer trundles on with the group stages of the 2021 Copa Libertadores starting on Tuesday. The circumstances are far from ideal for the tournament due to increasing COVID-19 cases across South America and lockdowns in place in many countries.
But the clubs are finding a way through with a super speed process of six group stage match days in six weeks. 96 games in 37 days to be precise. A month-and-a-bit to identify a host of new Messi's and new Neymar's.
The action gets underway on beIN SPORTS today with last year's finalists, Santos, hosting Barcelona SC of Ecuador, a club formed by an exiled Barcelona fan back in the 1920s. That is followed by another Brazilian giant, Sao Paolo, at Sporting Cristal of Peru.
Less drama and more soccer! ⚽️❤️— beIN SPORTS USA (@beINSPORTSUSA) April 20, 2021
We have a full schedule for today! 💥 pic.twitter.com/rydjJFczOF
Real Madrid rustle up roster for Cadiz on Wednesday
Coach Zizou would have been prepared to repeat "it's nothing to do with me" at least 25 times today as the French coach faced questions on Real Madrid's role in the European Super League breakaway. Indeed, the message was clear with the early comment that "it's a question for one person, the president. I'm here to talk about the game. The rest is not my job."
Zinedine Zidane was ostensibly before the press to talk about Wednesday's LaLiga match at Cadiz, just one of a full round of games in the Spanish League across tomorrow and Thursday.
The Real Madrid coach is more concerned with immediate issues over having enough fit players to both take to Cadiz and then defeat them, to avoid losing more ground on Atletico Madrid, three points clear at the top of the table. "Toni Kroos isn't playing, nor is Eden Hazard," confirmed Zidane.
Cadiz vs. Real Madrid is live on beIN SPORTS from 3:50PM ET / 12:50PM PT on Wednesday. Atletico Madrid host Huesca, while Barcelona take on Getafe on Thursday.