Players, fans hit out at breakaway ESL

Some players and fans have hit out at plans for a Super League for top clubs in Europe.
Some players and fans have hit out at plans for a Super League for top clubs in Europe.

A number of current and former players from across Europe have hit out at plans for a European Super League, with Paris St-Germain midfielder Ander Herrera amongst the most vocal.

Twelve top clubs from England, Italy and Spain on Sunday announced they intended to create and govern their own European competition, much to the incredulity of fans and leagues across the continent.

Crucially, the founder clubs would be guaranteed to compete and not be relegated.

Several players have rejected the idea and Herrera - whose French club are not among the 12 founding members - said the project would kill the dreams of fans across the globe.

"I fell in love with popular football, with the football of the fans, with the dream of seeing the team of my heart compete against the greatest," the ex-Manchester United player tweeted.

"If this European Super League advances, those dreams are over, the illusions of the fans of the teams that are not giants of being able to win on the field competing in the best competitions will end.

"I love football and I cannot remain silent about this. I believe in an improved Champions League, but not in the rich stealing what the people created, which is nothing other than the most beautiful sport on the planet."

Ex-Real Madrid, Barcelona and Inter Milan midfielder Luis Figo, whose former clubs have all signed up to the Super League, was equally scathing.

"This greedy and callous move would spell disaster for our grassroots, for women's football, and the wider football community only to serve self-interested owners, who stopped caring about their fans long ago, and complete disregard for sporting merit. Tragic," he wrote on Twitter.

Zenit St Petersburg's former Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren and Fenerbahce's ex-Arsenal and Germany midfielder Mesut Ozil also criticised the idea.

The Super League clubs also announced their intention to create a parallel women's competition but Olympique Lyonnais's five-time Champions League winner Ada Hegerberg slammed the plans as greedy.

"I grew up loving the Champions League, then I got to play in the Women's Champions League," she said.

"It's legacy. It's the past, present, and future, so is meritocracy in sports. Greed is not the future."

Furious soccer fans condemned the move as a "greedy" power grab, with many worrying it would hurt the spirit of the game.

"I think it is more despicable, it is more of a greedy power grab than we ever expected, and they claim that they do it in interest of football," said Ronan Evain, executive director of Football Supporters Europe.

"What they only really do is endanger the economic model of football and put every single club in Europe in danger."

Evain's comments were echoed at the grounds of clubs joining the initiative, which would be catapulted into an already congested fixture in Europe.

Interior designer Jordi Otero, outside Barcelona's Camp Nou, was concerned about the impact on other Spanish sides.

"I think that small teams are quite damaged by this. It is like saying that we are the big teams and we create a league for ourselves to earn a lot of money and the rest come at the end," Otero said.

German and French clubs are so far not involved, but for Tobias Haage, outside Borussia Dortmund's stadium, the idea could provide an opening for other clubs who currently do not qualify for the prestigious Champions League.

"It's all about economic interests and no longer about the sport," he said.

"But I also think that this might be an opportunity for smaller clubs which could reach the Champions League again should that format continue."

Australian Associated Press