MADRID (AP) — The head of the Spanish soccer league accused Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez on Wednesday of being behind the surprising announcement that Barcelona is pushing forward with the idea of a European Super League.
Javier Tebas told The Associated Press it was Pérez who prodded outgoing Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu to talk about the proposed new league in an effort to give it more credibility.
“Bartomeu was directed by Florentino, that is what I believe,” Tebas said in a telephone interview. “This (league) has been a dream by the Real Madrid president. … He has worked for this for a long time, this is nothing new. But it is a big mistake because he doesn’t understand its financial consequences.”
Tebas has been one of the more outspoken critics of the much talked-about Europe-wide competition for only elite teams, saying a Super League would be disastrous because it would hurt the local leagues and the majority of European clubs.
The league president said Bartomeu, who resigned along with his board of directors on Tuesday in the fallout from his feud with Lionel Messi, has been following the ideas of Real Madrid in recent years.
“Barcelona used to have its own voice when dealing with the league, with UEFA and with FIFA,” Tebas said. “But for the last three years it only repeats what Real Madrid says.”
He said Bartomeu served as a “spokesperson” for Pérez, whom he calls the mastermind of the Super League idea.
Tebas did not elaborate on how or why he said Barcelona and Bartomeu were echoing Madrid’s ideas, only saying that maybe they have been showing too much respect for their rivals.
Tebas said Bartomeu has “zero” authority in the soccer industry and that the Super League announcement on his last day on the job was just the latest of his recent mistakes.
Neither Real Madrid nor Barcelona responded to requests for comment following Tebas’ charge.
Tebas said Barcelona’s intention to participate in a Super League would do little to help the new competition get started, adding the will of a few clubs wouldn’t outweigh the rest of the soccer industry.
“In the medium term this tournament would be a failure,” the Spanish league president said. “Professional soccer is not only about the decision of four, five or six clubs who want to play in a competition to win more money.”
Rumors of a Super League often materialize ahead of UEFA talks to consider changes to the Champions League format, which are expected for the 2024-25 season.
On Wednesday, FIFA said it was “not aware of any agreement” related to the Super League.
“The topic of a so-called ‘European Super League’ comes up every now and then and FIFA has no wish to comment further on this since there are already well established football institutional structures to deal with it,” the governing body said in a statement.
Rainer Koch, a German member of the UEFA executive committee, said a Super League with 18-20 clubs without promotion and relegation rules “would rip into the heart of European football and must therefore be strictly rejected.”
“It would massively jeopardize the balance of interests between national associations, leagues and clubs in all 55 UEFA member associations,” he said.
Tebas noted that the Super League plan remains “very clandestine.”
“If they were so sure of it, they would be more transparent about it,” Tebas said. “They know that it is an impossible project. The clubs need the national leagues and they need the Champions League in this current configuration.”