European Super League: This is not sport – Guardiola against closed-shop competition

By Russell Greaves 20 April 2021 360
European Super League: This is not sport – Guardiola against closed-shop competition

Pep Guardiola expressed huge reservations over any closed-shop competitions that remove the relationship "between effort and success" after plans for a European Super League were announced on Sunday.

The Manchester City boss insisted he needed more information about the tournament before making a full judgement, but admitted he was against the concept of a format that involved hand-picked clubs and no open means of qualification for other teams.

City are one of the six Premier League sides to have signed up to the continental breakaway league, which has attracted a deluge of criticism from across the sport and beyond.

Speaking ahead of City's top-flight clash with Aston Villa on Wednesday, Guardiola faced questioning over a development that has dominated the headlines since being made public.

"Sport is not a sport when the relation between the effort and reward doesn't exist," he said. 

"It's not sport when success is guaranteed, when it doesn't matter if you lose. I want the best competitions as strong as possible. In this statement, it's what I feel. This is not sport."

City have fellow Premier League sides Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham for company in this band of clubs seeking to forge a new path, with all having met resistance from their own fans and, indeed, from players.

Reds boss Jurgen Klopp underlined some concerns after his side drew 1-1 with Leeds United on Monday, saying he would "try to help sort it", while midfielder James Milner went further in declaring: "I don't like it and hopefully it doesn't happen."

That has been the tone from practically all quarters, with governing bodies such as UEFA threatening sanctions against clubs if they forge ahead with the plans.

But Guardiola suggested those institutions were far from perfect themselves, while urging the need for more clarity on the proposals.

"It's just a statement. Two papers," he said. "We are going to play the Champions League next week. Next season we are going to play European competition. We want it.

"[But] don't be cynical, everyone makes its own interest. UEFA have failed. They have to communicate before. I don't have all the information.

"It's completely unfair for all the people working in the toughest period, everybody suffering, struggling. All the clubs, they have to clarify, make a clear statement.

"And after that, the people will decide. We have to go all together. Same hand. But, don't be cynical, UEFA thinks for themselves [too]."

Guardiola revealed he had found out about the plans "a few hours before the statement" and highlighted the wide range of topics managers had been asked to comment on, when perhaps they were not best placed to do so.

"Ole [Gunnar Solskjaer], Jurgen, myself, we speak six times a week. We can talk. We spoke about the virus, NHS, furlough, anything," he said.

"Honestly, we are not the right people to answer these questions. There are presidents who can speak more clearly. That's why it's a little bit uncomfortable.

"We don't have all the information. I don't know more. I would love the president of this committee to go around the world and say why they took this decision.

"I support this club. I have my own opinion. For all of us, all the managers, it's uncomfortable."

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Russell Greaves

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