Inter great Walter Zenga believes the European Super League will go ahead despite strong opposition and criticism as the former Italy goalkeeper had his say on the "big mess".

The 'big six' from the Premier League – Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham – have collaborated with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Inter, Juventus and Milan to reveal plans for a new midweek club competition to rival UEFA's Champions League.

Those founding members would automatically qualify each season no matter where they finished in their respective domestic leagues.

UEFA and the European Club Association (ECA) have condemned the new competition, while FIFA has also disapproved of the move as fans and pundits continue to slam the breakaway league.

Regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, Zenga – who amassed 473 appearances for Inter, winning two UEFA Cup titles, the Serie A trophy and Supercoppa Italiana during his time at San Siro – said he is not a fan of the Super League.

"It's a big mess," the 60-year-old – who emerged from Inter's youth team in 1978 before leaving the club permanently in 1994 – told Stats Perform News.

"I think that I read one interview about [former Manchester United manager Alex] Ferguson that he said that he came from one passion football like when he was young, child play on the street and run over the dreams and everything and now probably the Super League can destroy the oldest small club like he mentioned that he won the Europa league with Aberdeen a small club.

"I don't think it's going to be okay for football, it looks like it has become a private club."

"I think that every club they have own problems now because of the covid situation," said Zenga, who was last head coach of Serie A side Cagliari in August last year. "We can just say our point of view that's just opinion it's not the truth no? We don't know what are the big problems inside some clubs, we don't know why they want to create a Super League probably to save the money or something like this.

"I think the only thing in this situation was thinking about the commercial and how to make more money and everything. Then honestly if you ask me do I like the Super League I say no. If you ask me about why one club takes a decision to approach these things I say I don't know because I'm not involved inside a club, I don't know the problems this is very difficult to understand."

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin branded the planned Super League as a "disgraceful, self-serving proposal" fuelled by greed, as well as confirming players from the 12 breakaway clubs involved will be banned from international football.

Madrid president and European Super League chairman Florentino Perez insisted the primary aim of the competition is to "save football".

When asked if there was any turning back following Sunday's initial announcement, Zenga – named the IFFHS World's Best Goalkeeper for three consecutive years in 1989, 1990 and 1991 – replied: "I think that now after UEFA send a letter to everybody I think it is very difficult because it is [not just] one big problem to solve.

"I don't think so I think the clubs go for themself. I don't think so after this, I think the Super League continues."

Florentino Perez insists the primary aim of the European Super League is to "save football" after the breakaway competition came in for relentless and vitriolic criticism in the 24 hours after it was announced.

The Super League launched its competition website late on Sunday after a day of speculation, with Perez named as chairman of the new competition.

Madrid, fellow LaLiga giants Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, the Premier League's 'big six' – Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City, Tottenham and Arsenal – and Juventus, Milan and Inter are all on board, with founding members set to benefit from an initial windfall of €3.5billion.

Nevertheless, Perez told El Chiringuito TV that he felt there were higher ideals at play than mere greed.

"The biggest clubs in England, Italy and Spain have found a solution to the very difficult situation that football is experiencing," he said.

"Real Madrid in just two season have lost €400m and that's just Real Madrid. When you only have income from television, you understand the solution is to create games that are more competitive and more attractive and that can be seen around the world.

"We decided, in midweek, instead of the Champions League we could have a Super League with more matches.

"Football has to evolve. It is losing interest. We have to think why 16-24 year olds are losing interest. There are bad quality matches and other platforms for entertainment.

"We have to make it more attractive. It is not something for the rich. We do this to save football."

Perez rejected the criticism that the league was creating a closed shop, due to the intention to allow five teams to enter on "sporting merit" and bring the total number of competitors up to 20, alongside 15 founding clubs.

He also has no concerns over Madrid, their opponents Chelsea and fellow semi-finalists City being expelled from this season's Champions League, nor UEFA and FIFA banning Super League players from taking place in international tournaments.

"Every player can be calm because that's not going to happen," he said.

"Real Madrid will not be kicked out of the Champions League. Nor City, nor anyone else.

"It's not going to happen. I don’t want to get into the legal reasons but it's not going to happen. Legally it's impossible."

Despite the historical animosity between Madrid and Barcelona, Perez said it was easy to convince recently elected Camp Nou president Joan Laporta to take part in the project.

He added: "Games between the big clubs are the most attractive, they generate the most money. I don't think the smaller ones are more attractive.

"There are national competitions people don't even know the name of. Football as it is cannot continue."

The European Club Association (ECA) has condemned the proposed Super League while announcing a new executive committee including representatives from Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich.

A 12-team group including some of European football's biggest names confirmed plans for a breakaway competition on Sunday, with those founding members guaranteed to be involved every year regardless of their domestic performances.

The competition has received widespread criticism from governing bodies, former players and fan groups alike.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin branded the European Super League as a "disgraceful, self-serving proposal" fuelled by greed, as well as confirming players from the clubs involved will be banned from playing international football.

After a meeting of its executive board on Monday, the ECA made clear it remains the only "legitimate and fully recognised voice" for Europe's leading teams.

"The board was unanimous in its condemnation of the actions of the departing members, which it holds to be self-serving and to the detriment of the game's wellbeing and in clear opposition to ECA's values," a statement read.

"We believe that European club football can be reformed from within the system to achieve the collective best interests of all stakeholders in the game.

"The board reiterated ECA's clear position as the only legitimate and fully recognised voice of the leading clubs in Europe and, as such, has taken a number of decisions to ensure that it is able to continue to perform its role efficiently and effectively."

The ECA also announced PSG chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi will be involved on a new-look executive committee, as well as Bayern representative Michael Gerlinger. Neither of the clubs were involved in the European Super League.

They will be joined by Edwin van der Sar (Ajax), Dariusz Mioduski (Legia Warszawa), Aki Riihilahti (HJK Helsinki) and Michele Centenaro (the ECA's independent board member).

Meanwhile, UEFA announced plans for Champions League expansion on Monday, the tournament set to see an increase to 36 teams from the 2024-25 season onwards.

"We are pleased that UEFA club competitions reform has reached this important milestone," the ECA said on the structural changes to the competition. 

"The agreement of new competition formats will create a greater number of high quality, relevant, exciting European matches for fans and increase participation for clubs at all levels - principles and targets that ECA laid out back in the Spring of 2019 when we embarked on this reform journey. 

"Moving forward, the entire ECA executive board's focus will be on pursuing efforts to conclude arrangements with UEFA around its renewed relationship post-2024 as we look to shape European club football for the years ahead."

Bayern CEO and honorary ECA chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who is to replace Andrea Agnelli as one of two representatives on the UEFA executive committee, made clear that the Bundesliga club support the revamped Champions League structure.

"Bayern has not been involved in the plans for creating a Super League. We are convinced that the current structure in football guarantees a reliable foundation," Rummenigge said. 

"Bayern welcomes the reforms of the Champions League because we believe they are the right step to take for the development of European football. The modified group stage will contribute to an increase in excitement and the emotional experience in the competition.

"I do not believe the Super League will solve the financial problems of European clubs that have arisen as result of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Rather, all clubs in Europe should work in solidarity to ensure that the cost structure, especially players' salaries and agents' fees, are brought in line with revenues, to make all of European football more rational."

As claim, counter-claim and another news bombshell thudded into one another regarding the purported launch of a European Super League on Sunday, many football supporters and those involved with the game expressed wishes for a simpler time.

One of those was Mark Pougatch, esteemed anchor of ITV's UK coverage of England matches, who was probably wondering what side Gareth Southgate might be able to put out given UEFA's threats to ban players from the 12 Super League clubs from representing their national teams.

Pougatch asked whether the chairmen of Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham in the 1980s and 1990 – local figures rooted in their communities – would have let such tawdry antics occur on their watch.

A glance at his Twitter replies showed the consensus was, "Probably, yeah".

One claimed Peter Swales, the vainglorious and hubristic ex-Manchester City chairman, would have sold his kidneys to take part in a Super League. Martin Edwards, his Manchester United contemporary whose family ploughed their fortune from butchery into the club, would probably have bought Swales' kidneys and put them into sausages.

Gallows humour among supporters often speaks football's more enduring truths and this was no different. Sunday's cloth-eared land grab from England's 'big six', Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Milan, Juventus and Inter is shocking because of its scant regard for the sporting competition all of them pretend to crave. But it is entirely in line with the actions of those clubs over the past three decades, which have always spoken louder than their vapid platitudes.

Edwards, Swales and their contemporaries were around at the time super league talk first emerged, when gate sharing in English football was abolished in 1983 and the so-called Heathrow Agreement gave half of the television rights money available to the top division at the expense of the other three in 1985.

These were all precursors to the 1992 Premier League breakaway, which enshrined the basic principle that has driven all the developments of the past 24 hours: the more successful a team is, the greater share of the game's wealth it deserves at the expense of all others, widening gap between the haves and the have-nots.

A shrinking privileged few see how cold it is outside of their exclusive set and have since taken every measure they can to ensure they do not fall out of that elite. What better way to lock that down than to come up with a closed shop drowning in hedge-fund billions? The Super League is as much a natural conclusion as it is a radical departure.

But what now?

Baddies and baddies

The multi-layered PR disaster of the Super League roll out, not to mention the threat of endless litigation, means understandably upset fans should still have confidence the vision of Florentino Perez and his allies will not prevail.

But picking good guys and bad guys in this scenario is a selection process as tricky as sending a Spain team to a European Championship without Barca, Madrid or Atleti players.

We've seen numerous examples over recent years of fans being played off against one another in sinister fashion. Take the framing of new-monied City and Chelsea, trying to unseat the deserving greats of English football – United, Arsenal and Liverpool (sorry, Tottenham) – with their ill-gotten gains. Oil money and plastic clubs versus institutions with values, doing things the "proper" way.

Turns out they are all the same side of an utterly fetid coin. They deserve complete contempt and suspicion at all times. They have proved they do not care about you or your club and you never owe them your obedience.

So who are the goodies? Absolutely not UEFA.

Aleksander Ceferin spoke with impressive passion, clarity and controlled anger when addressing the challenge to his organisation and its tournaments on Monday. But UEFA's new Champions League format is a horrible pile of bloated rubbish.

There will be more games, more dead rubbers, less jeopardy and more guarantees – in financial and sporting terms – for the elite. It's the closed shop of the Super League with a few of the windows and doors left open. Probably as well to let out the smell.

UEFA are the far lesser of two evils here but unquestioningly backing them as righteous saviours and guardians of football is a dead end.

The Premier League's lost generation

Similarly, concern proclaimed for "match-going fans" should not be allowed to pass by in England without action being taken once the dust settles.

High ticket prices have served to effectively leave a generation of fans behind in the Premier League. In the 2017 BBC Price of Football study, 82 per cent of 18-24 year olds said the cost of tickets was an obstacle to them attending matches.

Within that context, Monday's survey for BBC Sport by polling company Savanta ComRes that showed 48 per cent of 18-34-year-old fans were "happy" about the Super League plans – against an "unhappy" 18 per cent - should come as little surprise.

For all the understandable outrage among those with an emotional stake in the traditions of the game, there is an entire demographic who love and consume football but feel little connection to the "fabric" of its century-old culture that has failed to lend them so much as a stray thread.

The breakaway clubs are motivated primarily by vast financial gain, but a younger generation left to find their own way into the game by the establishment – in thrall to online clips, video games and viral superstars – will have come into their calculations.

German football's stronger connection to its fan culture, demonstrated both by more affordable ticket prices and the 50+1 rule enshrining member ownership, feels like a huge factor in Bayern Munich not being along for the joyride.

Much as they might feel taken for a ride by various stakeholders, supporters will still be influential over the direction of travel to come and those chastising the Super League must now do more than pay lip service. Slash admission prices and open up the people's game once more.

"We came from Cheltenham"

Those fan groups already engaged are starting to mobilise and it will be interesting to hear how the biggest names in the sport react, especially in light of UEFA's hardline threats that seemingly include immediate Champions League expulsion. Without them this cannot happen.

Speaking to Kicker in 2019, Jurgen Klopp said: "I hope there will never be this Super League. I also don't feel like my club has to be seeded [in the Champions League].

"Of course, it's economically important, but why should we create a system where Liverpool can play against Real Madrid for 10 years in a row? Who wants to see this every year?"

Pep Guardiola has also rubbished the idea to which his club has now committed to – although City are among those involved yet to issue a public statement on the matter – and spoke warmly of the value of football's pyramid structure before an FA Cup tie at Cheltenham Town this season, when his players had to get changed in the stadium bar at Whaddon Road.

"Everyone comes from the lower divisions or do you believe when we are under-16 or under-18 we fly in private jets?" he said. "We play in these stadiums all our careers, we don't play in big stadiums all the time, we came from [places like] Cheltenham. People cannot forget that and it is a pleasure to play there.

"We were there many times and we changed in bars as boys and we play football with incredible joy. We love this game and we change in these changing rooms for most of our careers most of the time."

Guardiola depicted a romance entirely absent from the Super League, UEFA's reforms and, in truth, most of his employers' operations. But for all the distance between the millionaire superstars of the modern game and the supporters shown such contempt by the hedge fund class, there lies a common bond.

Klopp stood by his previously stated position ahead of Liverpool's game with Leeds United amid fan protests outside Elland Road. He and Guardiola will speak again about this serious fracture in the sport over the coming hours and days and their words will carry considerable weight. The Super League owners have used the uncertainty of the global pandemic to push their agenda, but the tragedy and tumult of the past year has also shown how much power still lies with players and fans.

It can be seen before every single Premier League game, when players continue to take a knee in protest against police brutality. It was there when Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson led a fundraising effort for the NHS after he and his fellow professionals were goaded by a UK government that Marcus Rashford continues to hold to account over child poverty.

It was also felt by would-be Super League clubs, when City and United were persuaded to donate £100,000 to foodbanks in Greater Manchester amid rising demand due to the pandemic. Or when Liverpool and Tottenham U-turned on their risible decision to furlough non-playing staff.

Players and fans, still the heart and soul of the game we love, might have to shout a little louder this time, but they can definitely be heard. It feels like a moment to line up alongside one another as opposed to backing the least-bad option in a pin-striped suit stuffed with self-interest and empty promises.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has branded the planned European Super League as a "disgraceful, self-serving proposal" fuelled by greed, as well as confirming players from the 12 breakaway clubs involved will be banned from international football.

The 'big six' from the Premier League have collaborated with Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Inter, Juventus, Milan and Real Madrid to reveal plans for a new midweek club competition.

Those founder members would automatically qualify each season no matter where they finished in their respective domestic leagues.

Speaking during a conference call to reveal "dynamic" changes to UEFA's current European club tournaments, Ceferin made clear how results on the pitch should always decide who participates, rather than a "closed shop run by a greedy few".

"We began this project to modernise the competitions in 2019 judged by the principle it should be: an exercise in inclusive leadership," Ceferin told the media.

"At the start of the process, we were driven by a desire to help all UEFA club competitions into something even better than the spectacles we know today. With the unanimous support of the European Club Association (ECA), we consulted widely across the game.

"Teams will always qualify and compete in our competitions on merit, not a closed shop run by a greedy, select few. That was our decision from the beginning.

"Any club, any fans should still have the dream of participating in the Champions League based on their results on the pitch."

The European Super League plan has come in for widespread criticism and Ceferin did not hold back in his own assessment, as well making clear the ramifications it will have for players outside of club football.

"I must address the extraordinary situation that has developed on the eve of this announcement," he continued.

"I cannot stress more strongly at this moment that UEFA and the footballing world stand united against the disgraceful, self-serving proposal in the past 24 hours from a select few clubs in Europe that are fuelled purely by greed above all else.

"Not only is the football world united, but society is also united, governments are united. It's part of our culture – we are all united against this nonsense of a project.

"We have the English FA, Spanish Federation, Italian Federation, Premier League, LaLiga, Serie A, and also FIFA and all our 55 member associations unanimous in opposition to this cynical plan that are completely against what football should be.

"Our game has become the greatest sport in the world based on open competition, integrity and sporting merit. We cannot allow, and we will not allow that to change, ever. Never.

"As previously announced by FIFA and the six confederations, the players that play in the teams that might play in the closed league, will be banned from playing in the World Cup and the Euros. They will not be able to represent their national teams in any matches."

UEFA announced plans for Champions League expansion that will see an increase to 36 teams as the present format -  whereby there are eight pools of four – will be scrapped.

Instead, each team will play 10 group games before advancing to a last-16 knockout format. The changes are due to be introduced for the 2024-25 season.

"Whoever thinks the Super League and UEFA are all about money is not right. Super League is only about money, money of the dozen – I don't want to call them the dirty dozen," Ceferin said. 

"UEFA is about developing football, about financing what should be financed, that our football and our culture survives. Some people do not understand it.

"The reforms preserve the value of the domestic game by retaining the principle that domestic performance should be the key to qualification – this should, and will not, ever change.

"The European game is the greatest success story of the modern sport, and there's a reason why – because of its pyramid, it's long history. We are constantly adapting the European competition to ensure it is more and more interesting, more and more modern, but the principles cannot change.

"Solidarity is something that cannot change, but for some people solidarity doesn't exist, unity doesn't exist. The only thing that exists is their pockets."

Ander Herrera has spoken out against the planned creation of a European Super League, describing clubs involved as "the rich stealing what the people created".

In a strongly worded post on Twitter, the Paris Saint-Germain midfielder expressed how it was pivotal in football for all clubs to be able to retain the dream of competing at the highest level.

The 'big six' from the Premier League have combined with Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid from LaLiga, plus Serie A clubs Inter, Juventus and Milan, to propose the introduction of a breakaway competition to rival UEFA's Champions League model.

The proposal sees those 12 clubs joined by eight more to play in two leagues across a span of midweek fixtures, followed by a two-legged knockout format to decide the eventual winners.

Those founding members – it is expected that number could eventually rise to 15 – will qualify each season regardless of their domestic league position, much to Herrera's disappointment.

"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," Herrera wrote.

"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."

PSG, along with 2019-20 Champions League winners Bayern Munich, have not signed up to be involved in the Super League.

Herrera moved to the French capital after five years with Manchester United, having helped the Red Devils win the Europa League in 2017. He also featured for his current employers in last season's Champions League final, while PSG are through to the last four this term.

Mesut Ozil also made clear his disapproval of the introduction of a Super League, a competition he believes will dilute the excitement surrounding European heavyweights going up against each other.

"Kids grow up dreaming to win the World Cup and the Champions League - not any Super League," Ozil posted on Twitter, along with a broken heart emoji.

"The enjoyment of big games is that they only happen once or twice a year, not every week. Really hard to understand for all football fans out there."

Barcelona insist they are remaining "loyal" to their history after signing up to the controversial European Super League but believe the move is part of "great changes" required in world football.

Six English clubs, three Italian sides and Barca along with two other Spanish teams have joined forces to create a tournament that has long been speculated about, despite significant opposition from UEFA and the respective leagues.

Reigning European champions Bayern Munich and last season's Champions League finalists Paris Saint-Germain are not included, though it is said the competition plans to expand to 15 teams before its inaugural season, which will start "as soon as practicable".

The Premier League's so-called 'big six' – Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham – are the teams to have signed up alongside Real Madrid, Barca, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Milan and their city rivals Inter.

Following speculation earlier in the day that prompted a withering response from UEFA, a joint announcement was made by several of the clubs late on Sunday, confirming plans were in place and the initial 12 founding clubs had an agreement.

The lengthy statement revealed the competition will have five guest teams added to the finalised 15 founding clubs and will run as a midweek tournament alongside the domestic leagues – those clubs in power will share €3.5billion "solely to support their infrastructure investment plans and to offset the impact of the COVID pandemic".

While the plans have been met with widespread condemnation due to the competition guaranteeing places – and vast revenue – to a closed group of clubs, those involved claim they have the best interests of football in mind.

Barca are no different, adamant it is their responsibility to help develop the sport.

At their end of their version of the uniform statement, which they did not release until Monday morning, Barcelona said: "FC Barcelona, loyal to its history and its leadership role within the framework of European Football, once again places itself as a leading club with regards to the great changes that are needed in the world of football, thinking always in the how to benefit the club best from a sporting, institutional and financial point of view."

UEFA, the national associations of England, Spain and Italy, plus LaLiga, Serie A and the Premier League signed a joint statement on Sunday that threatened any team involved in the Super League will be excluded from domestic and international competitions.

The Supporters' Trusts of Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester United and Arsenal slammed the announcement of a breakaway competition to rival UEFA's Champions League, the European Super League (ESL).

Chelsea, Tottenham, United and Arsenal are among the 12 teams confirmed to form the new Super League, which also includes Premier League rivals Liverpool and Manchester City, as well as LaLiga trio Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Serie A's Juventus, Inter and Milan.

Despite significant opposition from UEFA, the respective leagues and the UK Government, and widespread condemnation, the ESL's plans were confirmed on Sunday.

It has been met with strong criticism, with Chelsea Supporters' Trust releasing a damning statement in response.

"They say expect the unexpected, but today the Chelsea Supporters' Trust [CST], our members and football supporters across the world have experienced the ultimate betrayal," the statement read.

"This is a decision of greed to line the pockets of those at the top and it has been made with no consideration for the loyal supporters, our history, our future of the future of football in this country.

"It is likely that this proposal with never come into existence, however, it speaks volumes that [Chelsea] are prepared to risk our existence in the Premier League and the FA Cup.

"The CST has held extensive talks with CFC over the past few weeks regarding various issues and there has been no mention of his secretive proposal. The CST and its members demand answers. This is unforgiveable. Enough is enough."

Arsenal Supporters' Trust tweeted: "The death of Arsenal as a sporting institution."

Tottenham Supporters' Trust issued a powerful statement, saying: "Tottenham Hotspur was the first British club to win a European trophy. We blazed a trail that caught the imagination of fans everywhere. Yesterday, the current Board of THFC betrayed the club, its history and the magic that makes this game so special when they put their name to a statement announcing the formation of a breakaway European Super League.

"This statement, signed by self-appointed 'leading clubs', was put out late on a Sunday night. It was made not only after no consultation with supporters, but in the face of clearly stated opposition to key parts of the announcement. 
 
"We have always tried to maintain a pragmatic position of engagement with the Board of THFC, even under the most trying of circumstances. But enough is enough. The current Board is prepared to risk the club's reputation and its future in the opportunistic pursuit of greed. One of England's most famous clubs could find itself expelled from English league competition. Its players could be banned from international competition. And yet the current owners – mere custodians of a 139-year-old institution – are prepared to risk it all for avarice and self-aggrandisement.
 
"We demand the Board immediately disassociates itself from the breakaway league. Only then can meaningful discussions about change take place. If the Board does not do this, we will have no choice but to call on new owners prepared to safeguard the past, present and future of our great club to step forward and work with us."

Manchester United Supporters' Trust added: "A 'Super League' based on a closed shop of self-selected wealthy clubs goes against everything football, and Manchester United, should stand for.

"To bring forward these proposals without any fan consultation, and in the midst of a global pandemic when people should be pulling together not serving their own selfish interests, just adds insult to injury."

Manchester United co-chairman and vice-chairman of the European Super League (ESL) Joel Glazer said the breakaway competition will provide "increased financial support for the wider football pyramid".

Six English clubs, three Italian sides and three Spanish teams have joined forces to create a tournament to rival the Champions League, which has long been in the offing, despite significant opposition from UEFA and the respective leagues.

The Premier League's "big six" – Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham – are the teams to have signed up alongside LaLiga champions Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Serie A holders Juventus, Milan and their city rivals Inter.

The Glazer family have long been scrutinised since purchasing United in 2005, and Joel – who also serves as chairman of NFL Super Bowl champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – addressed Sunday's announcement.

"By bringing together the world's greatest clubs and players to play each other throughout the season, the Super League will open a new chapter for European football, ensuring world-class competition and facilities, and increased financial support for the wider football pyramid," he said in a statement.

UEFA was joined by the top five European leagues and the English Football Association (FA) in opposing the plans, while FIFA also expressed its "disapproval" of the new competition.

Former United captain Gary Neville called for harsh punishment of the Premier League sides involved, including relegation.

Rio Ferdinand, who played alongside Neville at Old Trafford, was also scathing of the Premier League clubs.

Asked if the teams should face immediate sanctions, Ferdinand told BT Sport: "100 per cent. I think this breakaway group of teams, this is a war on football. It's a disgrace. It's embarrassing. And it goes against everything football is about.

"It's a closed shop for these bigwigs and it's completely and utterly only about one thing and that's money. The rich getting richer and the others not even being considered. There's no consideration for the history, for the people in the different parts of the pyramid below the top, top teams that they’re trying to separate from.

"It's a disgrace, I can't believe it.  How have they got the audacity to do it in the climate we're in at the moment with the pandemic around the world? People struggling in the streets, people struggling all around the world, and these lot are sitting there in their own little pub or room somewhere, speaking and talking and colluding about this little idea they've had and then come out and break it like this.

"It's a disgrace and I think the element of being anti-competitive goes against everything football is about. Relegation, promotion, being rewarded for winning, being punished for not winning: these are things that add to the value of our game that we love.

"It shows me that these people have no idea what football is about. It's purely a business transaction, that's it. There's no thought for anyone else in the pyramid, there's no consideration at all. I can't believe it.

"The people that actually support this game and make it what it is – we've been here all this time without fans, with them this game doesn't feel the same. And they're the people that this is going to hurt more than anyone, and the grassroots. The people that make this game special are not being considered, it's the people at the top end of the game who are making decisions without thinking about anything other than their pockets."

On United, Ferdinand added: "I'm embarrassed. There's been so many things thrown at the owners over the past few years, but this situation now – to be a part of that group that want to break away and leave everybody for dead – that's an embarrassment.

"I can't believe it. I'm sorry, I'm a Man United fan, I love the club, but I can't stand by and support something like that at all."

Florentino Perez, the first chairman of the European Super League (ESL), has vowed that the breakaway competition "will help football and take it to its rightful place in the world".

It was announced on Sunday that 12 of Europe's leading football clubs have agreed to establish a new midweek competition to rival the Champions League.

Six English clubs, three Italian sides and three Spanish teams have joined forces to create the tournament, despite significant opposition from UEFA and the respective leagues.

A statement released on Sunday read: "AC Milan, Arsenal FC, Atletico de Madrid, Chelsea FC, FC Barcelona, FC Internazionale Milano, Juventus FC, Liverpool FC, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid CF and Tottenham Hotspur have all joined as Founding Clubs. 

"It is anticipated that a further three clubs will join ahead of the inaugural season, which is intended to commence as soon as practicable.

"Going forward, the Founding Clubs look forward to holding discussions with UEFA and FIFA to work together in partnership to deliver the best outcomes for the new League and for football as a whole."

Perez was announced as the chairman of the ESL, which he will balance with his duties as Real Madrid president.

Despite the widespread criticism aimed at the founding clubs involved, with the English Football Association (FA) warning it would hurt football "at all levels", Perez insisted it is a move that will be good for the game.

"We will help football at every level and take it to its rightful place in the world," he said.  "Football is the only global sport in the world with more than four billion fans and our responsibility as big clubs is to respond to their desires."

The rogue competition has also been given the full backing of Juventus chairman and newly appointed ESL vice-chairman Andrea Agnelli, whose role as European Club Association (ECA) chairman and a member of the UEFA executive committee has been cast in doubt.

"Our 12 founder clubs represent billions of fans across the globe and 99 European trophies," he said. 

"We have come together at this critical moment, enabling European competition to be transformed, putting the game we love on a sustainable footing for the long-term future, substantially increasing solidarity, and giving fans and amateur players a regular flow of headline fixtures that will feed their passion for the game while providing them with engaging role models."

The controversial new European Super League will involve 20 teams playing in two leagues before a two-leg knockout format to determine the two finalists. 

Six English clubs, three Italian sides and three Spanish teams have joined forces to create a tournament which has long been in the offing, despite significant opposition from UEFA and the respective leagues.

Reigning European champions Bayern Munich and last season's Champions League finalists Paris Saint-Germain are not included, though it is said the competition plans to expand to 15 teams before its inaugural season, which will start "as soon as practicable".

Premier League sides Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham have signed up alongside Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Milan and Inter.

UEFA, along with Europe's top five leagues and corresponding football associations, all strongly emphasised their opposition to the proposal, and vowed to sanction those involved.

In a statement issued on Sunday, the new competition's organisers revealed its format. 

Fifteen founding clubs will be joined by five further teams, who it is said will qualify annually based on achievements in the prior season. 

Starting in August – although the statement did not confirm whether that will be this year – clubs will be split into two groups of 10, playing home and away fixtures, with the top three in each group automatically qualifying for the quarter-finals. 

Teams finishing fourth and fifth will then compete in a two-legged play-off for the remaining quarter-final positions. 

A two-leg knockout format will be used to reach the final at the end of May, which will be staged as a single fixture at a neutral venue.

The statement said all fixtures will take place in midweek, with clubs continuing to compete in their respective national leagues.

Prime minister Boris Johnson confirmed the UK Government's backing of football authorities over opposition to proposals for a breakaway European Super League.

In an emphatic response to widespread media reports, UEFA – together with the English Football Association (FA), Premier League, the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), LaLiga, the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) and Serie A – publicised their collective opposition to the proposals. 

One of the sanctions put forward by UEFA was to ban the 12 teams from participating in its club competitions, namely the Champions League and Europa League.

An official statement from the newly formed European Super League followed late on Sunday, European time.

Six Premier League clubs – Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham – along with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Inter, Milan and Juventus, are the teams involved.

Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich and Ligue 1 holders Paris Saint-Germain have not been included, with reports suggesting the sides had opted not to join.

The FA warned a European Super League would hurt football "at all levels", stating any closed-shop tournament would go against long-standing principles of the game.

Oliver Dowden, the UK Government's culture secretary, said clubs signing up for any such project would be neglecting their duty to supporters by taking away their say, and Johnson later expanded on his party's stance.

"Plans for a European Super League would be very damaging for football and we support football authorities in taking action," a statement on Johnson's official Twitter account read.

"They would strike at the heart of the domestic game, and will concern fans across the country. The clubs involved must answer to their fans and the wider footballing community before taking any further steps."

UEFA also alluded to FIFA's threat of barring players from the World Cup should they play for teams who choose to participate in a European Super League, and the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) said it had "substantial concerns regarding the wide-ranging implications of the proposed European Super League concept."

A statement read: "This proposed move would detract from the strength and joy of domestic football and diminish the game for the vast majority of fans across the continent.

"Clubs across all domestic competitions are not equal, each having differing financial starting points. However, success is never guaranteed, often cyclical and always earned.

"We have seen countless examples around Europe of teams outperforming their resources. In recent years, at home in the Premier League, this has resulted in unrivalled global entertainment and sporting drama.

"A system that rewards all clubs for success is paramount. In England, we are privileged to enjoy the most professional teams, the most professional players and in normal times, the highest aggregate attendances across the world. This success is achieved by working together and in solidarity."

The creation of a European Super League took a step closer to reality on Sunday as 12 leading clubs agreed plans for a new competition.

Six English clubs, three Italian sides and three Spanish teams have joined forces to create a tournament which has long been in the offing, despite significant opposition from UEFA and the respective leagues.

Reigning European champions Bayern Munich and last season's Champions League finalists Paris Saint-Germain are not included, though it is said the competition plans to expand to 15 teams before its inaugural season, which will start "as soon as practicable".

The Premier League's "big six" are the teams to have signed up alongside Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Milan and their city rivals Inter.

It is an announcement which comes just before UEFA was set to confirm its intentions to alter the format of the Champions League from 2024 onwards. 

UEFA, along with Europe's top five leagues and corresponding football assocations, all strongly emphasised their opposition to the proposal, and vowed to sanction those involved.

Yet a statement released on Sunday read: "Twelve of Europe's leading football clubs have today come together to announce they have agreed to establish a new mid-week competition, the Super League, governed by its Founding Clubs.

"AC Milan, Arsenal FC, Atletico de Madrid, Chelsea FC, FC Barcelona, FC Internazionale Milano, Juventus FC, Liverpool FC, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid CF and Tottenham Hotspur have all joined as Founding Clubs. It is anticipated that a further three clubs will join ahead of the inaugural season, which is intended to commence as soon as practicable.

"Going forward, the Founding Clubs look forward to holding discussions with UEFA and FIFA to work together in partnership to deliver the best outcomes for the new League and for football as a whole."

Antonio Conte says there is still plenty of room for improvement from Christian Eriksen but hailed the midfielder's renewed "intensity" after he sealed a point for Inter on Sunday. 

Eriksen looked poised to leave Inter during the mid-season break after the club's CEO Giuseppe Marotta revealed he had been placed on the transfer list.

The former Tottenham man has forced his way back into Conte's plans, though, and secured a 1-1 draw for his side against Napoli after Samir Handanovic's first-half own goal. 

His fine strike was his 24th from outside the area in the top five European leagues since he joined Spurs in 2013-14, with only Barcelona's Lionel Messi (59) scoring more in that period.

The result ended the Nerazzurri's 11-game winning streak in Serie A, though they remain firm favourites to win a first league title since the 2009-10 season thanks to a nine-point advantage over second-placed Milan, who beat Genoa earlier in the day, with seven games left. 

Conte still wants to see more from Eriksen, but is pleased with the improvements he has made to his game in recent months. 

"Things changed when I had more time to work with him, and also I needed him to realise there is attacking and defending in football," the Inter boss told Sky Sport Italia. 

"He took a while to adapt to a very tactical style of football that we have in Italy.

"We tried in every way to get him settled and tried various roles. I know he can do much, much better. 

"He is becoming more aggressive and showing more intensity, which certainly benefited the whole team."

The result means Inter have earned the most points (75) in the top five European leagues this season, overtaking Premier League pacesetters Manchester City (74). 

Conte was delighted with his side's ability to bounce back from Handanovic's calamitous own goal and believes it was the kind of game they might have lost last season.  

"This was a game we may well have lost in other situations, albeit undeservedly, and we'd have struggled psychologically," he explained. 

"Instead, we saw a team that knows what it's doing, that never loses sight of the right way forward, even if something unlucky happens, such as the own goal.

"These are games that we would've struggled in during the past; that we would've lost or at least let our heads drop. Instead, this side never loses its way.

"Don't forget Napoli were at full strength and I considered them one of the favourites for the Scudetto going into the season.

"We dropped two points compared to Milan this weekend, but a draw away to Napoli is not to be snubbed."

Inter are in Serie A action again on Wednesday when they travel to Spezia. 

The European Club Association (ECA) has joined UEFA in condemning proposals for a new European Super League.

Widespread reports emerged on Sunday of an agreement in place between 12 European clubs to form a breakaway competition.

Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Inter, Milan, Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal are the clubs involved, although confirmation is still pending.

Reigning European champions Bayern Munich, along with last season's Champions League finalists Paris Saint-Germain, were not included.

UEFA, Europe's top leagues and football associations confirmed their opposition to the proposal, which drew a mass of criticism from pundits and fans alike.

With UEFA set to announce changes to the format of the Champions League from 2024 onwards on Monday, the ECA reiterated its commitment to those proposed alterations, and insisted it would stand against a Super League.

An emergency meeting of the ECA was held on Sunday. According to reports, none of the 12 teams making up the proposed breakaway competition responded to invitations to attend, though PSG and Bayern were represented. 

"In light of today's reports on the subject of a so-called breakaway league, the ECA as the body representing 246 leading clubs across Europe, reiterates its stated commitment to working on developing the UEFA Club Competitions (UCCs) model with UEFA for the cycle beginning 2024 and that a 'closed super league model' to which media articles refer would be strongly opposed by the ECA," a statement read.

The ECA statement went on to outline the body's intention to "work with UEFA on a renewed structure for European Club Football as a whole post 2024", before concluding that "the ECA Executive Board will be convening over the coming days to take appropriate decisions in light of any further developments".

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