Breakaway European Super League (ESL) founder and Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli said on Wednesday that the league can no longer go ahead after six English clubs withdrew.
Asked whether the project could still happen after the exits, Agnelli told Reuters: “To be frank and honest no, evidently that is not the case.”
Twelve of Europe’s leading football clubs announced a breakaway league on Sunday (April 18) but after 48 hours of intense criticism and political opposition, the six English clubs backed out on Tuesday.
Agnelli said he remained convinced that European football needed change and he had no regrets about the way the breakaway attempt was made.
“I remain convinced of the beauty of that project,” Agnelli said, stating it would have created the best competition in the world.
“But admittedly… I mean, I don’t think that that project is now still up and running,” he said.
The coalition had already looked set to crumble further on Wednesday with Italian club Inter Milan expected to join the six English teams in withdrawing from the controversial breakaway competition.
A source close to Inter Milan confirmed to Reuters they were no longer interested in the project “in light of the latest developments”.
Inter’s departure would leave the ESL with just five teams: Italian Serie A’s Juventus and AC Milan along with Spanish sides Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.
Manchester City were the first to back out of the venture on Tuesday, before Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea followed suit.
Liverpool’s principal owner John Henry apologised in a video on the club’s website and social media on Wednesday.
Having triggered an enormous backlash from players, fans and football authorities, the Super League said late on Tuesday it would reconsider and look to “reshape” the project, while stopping short of throwing in the towel.
Agnelli had previously struck a more defiant tone in an interview with an Italian newspaper, though it was conducted before the ESL’s statement.
“There is a blood pact among our clubs, we will press ahead,” Agnelli told la Repubblica when asked if the ESL was sinking after the English withdrawals.
“Yes, it has a 100% chance of being a success.”
The Super League had argued that it would increase revenues to the top clubs and allow them to distribute more money to the rest of the game.
However, the sport’s governing bodies, other teams and fans organisations said the breakaway move would only boost the power and wealth of the elite clubs, and that the partially closed structure goes against European football’s long-standing model.
Amid fans’ celebrations on Wednesday, anger remained. Some pundits said the owners of the English teams would never be forgiven and called on them to pull out.
“They were going to sell the souls of our major football institutions,” said Liverpool great Graeme Souness.
“I don’t know how these clubs will manage to get back on-side.”