Barca, Real, Juve to carry on Super League plans

Barcelona, Juventus and Real Madrid have vowed to carry on with plans for a European Super League after winning an important court battle with UEFA.

A court in Madrid has ruled that the governing body’s disciplinary proceedings against the founding 12 clubs of the proposed breakaway league must be scrapped, while the case will now be assessed by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

Twelve clubs announced themselves as founder members of the Super League on April 18, but the competition collapsed within 72 hours after nine withdrew amid fan protest, opposition from UEFA, FIFA and domestic leagues and even the British Government and Royal Family.

Those nine clubs – Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal, Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan and AC Milan – were each handed an approximate £7m fine by UEFA and fined five per cent of their prize money.

But a court in Spain has ruled those penalties must be removed while ongoing disciplinary proceedings against Barca, Juve and Madrid – who have always stuck by the project – must also be terminated.

PA - Chelsea supporters display a 'fans not customers' banner in protest over plans for a European Super League
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Chelsea supporters display a ‘fans not customers’ banner in protest over plans for a European Super League

It is a potentially seismic decision for the future of club football in Europe, with those three clubs vowing to plow on and end UEFA’s “monopolistic position”.

A joint statement on their websites read: “FC Barcelona, Juventus, and Real Madrid CF welcome today’s Court’s decision enforcing, with immediate effect, UEFA’s obligation to unwind the actions taken against all European Super League founding clubs, including terminating the disciplinary proceedings against the undersigning three clubs and removing the penalties and restrictions imposed on the remaining nine founding clubs for them to avoid UEFA’s disciplinary action.

“The Court backs the request made by the promoters of the European Super League, dismisses UEFA’s appeal, and confirms its warning to UEFA that failure to comply with its ruling shall result in fines and potential criminal liability.

“The case will be assessed by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, which shall review UEFA’s monopolistic position over European football.

“We have the duty to address the very serious issues facing football: UEFA has established itself as the sole regulator, exclusive operator, and unique owner of rights of European football competitions.

“This monopolistic position, in conflict of interest, is damaging football and its competitive balance. As shown by ample evidence, financial controls are inadequate, and they have been improperly enforced. Clubs participating in European competitions have the right to govern their own competitions.

“We are pleased that going forward we will no longer be subject to ongoing UEFA’s threats. Our aim is to keep developing the Super League project in a constructive and cooperative manner, always counting on all football stakeholders: fans, players, coaches, clubs, leagues, and national and international associations.

“We are aware that there are elements of our proposal that should be reviewed and, of course, can be improved through dialogue and consensus. We remain confident in the success of a project that will be always compliant with European Union laws.”

The view from Spain: Gil, Varane exciting, Messi pressure

Spanish football expert Terry Gibson runs the rule over new Tottenham signing Bryan Gil, Man Utd-bound defender Raphael Varane, and Lionel Messi’s future at Barcelona.

Speaking on Sky Sports News, Gibson insists Gil’s arrival in exchange for Erik Lamela is a deal that suits both Spurs and Sevilla, and that Spurs fans should be massively excited by the arrival of the 20-year-old.

Gibson also insists Varane is one of the best central defenders in Europe as he nears a move to Old Trafford, but fears for Real Madrid’s central defence having also lost Sergio Ramos this summer.

And what is going on at Barcelona? Gibson says they face a race against time to lower their wage bill ahead of the new season, and to tie down Lionel Messi to a new contract.

‘Gil made a fantastic impression’










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Terry Gibson thinks Bryan Gil has the talent to enrich the Premier League

Gil, capped three times by Spain, has signed a five-year contract at Spurs.

“I am excited, that’s for sure. Gil was one of the most talked about players in La Liga last season and I have to say one of my favourite players.

“He was playing in a team that was struggling in Eibar, who finished bottom of the league, but this young player on loan from Sevilla was making such a fantastic impression.

“He is a player people will enjoy watching, he’s an old-fashioned winger. Great at dribbling, great first touch, good passer of the ball.

“I am absolutely delighted Spurs have managed to sign him.

‘Lamela to Sevilla suits everyone’

Tottenham Hotspur's Erik Lamela celebrates scoring their side's first goal of the game during the Premier League match at Emirates Stadium, London. Picture date: Sunday March 14, 2021.
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Erik Lamela has signed a three-year deal at Sevilla

Lamela goes in the other direction on a three-year deal, and Gibson said: “I think he’s suited to La Liga. I think Tottenham supporters appreciated what he did for them while he was at the club.

“One of the reasons Sevilla have allowed Bryan Gil to leave is they have an abundance of really good wide attacking players, so it is difficult to see where Lamela is going to fit in straight away, hence the reason I think Sevilla were quite content to allow Gil to leave.

“It is good money for the club and it means they can keep one or two of their more established players that they do generally have to sell.

“[France international defender] Jules Kounde is a player a lot of clubs around Europe want to sign – but I think Sevilla are going to do their utmost to try and keep him.

“I think it’s one of those deals that suits everyone – Lamela is going to a fantastic club, a fantastic city, who play a really good style, and Tottenham have got a young player in Bryan Gil, Sevilla have some money so it’s going to be exciting for both players.”

‘Varane one of the best in Europe’



AP - Raphael Varane








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Gibson gives his verdict on Manchester United’s pursuit of Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane

The price for France international Varane is believed to be £41m including add-ons and the deal is set to go through, subject to a medical.

Gibson said: “If Man Utd do get Varane across the line, they are buying one of the best central defenders in Europe. He has been fantastic at Real since day one, he has all the attributes you need and he has been slightly overlooked because of Sergio Ramos.

“But in terms of quality, I do not think there are many better than Varane.”

‘Will Real Madrid’s defence cope?’

“They have signed David Alaba on a free from Bayern Munich, Eder Militao finished the season quite strong last year, and Nacho is still at the club, but when you look at losing two wonderful footballers and personalities in Varane and Ramos, at the same time, it means the centre of Real’s defence is going to look completely different.

“It will be fascinating to see how Real Madrid cope.”

‘Time running out, immense pressure on Barca’

Lionel Messi (AP)
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Lionel Messi has reached a verbal agreement on a five-year contract extension at Barcelona, but nothing has been made official

Lionel Messi has reached a verbal agreement on a five-year contract extension at Barcelona, with his salary to be reduced by 50 per cent under terms of the new deal, but is yet to officially sign.

Antoine Griezmann, Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele are also on a list of at least nine players Barcelona would be willing to part with this summer to raise funds and lower the wage bill.

“We hope we can cross this off soon, but we’re not entirely sure. As it stands, Barca still have some work to do to get it across the line. It’s incredible that at this moment Messi is not attached to Barcelona, he hasn’t put pen to paper yet.

“The intention is he will, but as we know Barcelona have to lower their wage bill quite considerably, as they’ve had to do over the previous two summers.

“This year they are working hard to get players off the wage bill, give away players in some cases, and work hard to get transfer fees for some players like Antoine Griezmann in particular, in order to register Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Memphis Depay and Eric Garcia.

“Time is running out, and Joan Laporta the president is under immense pressure to ge thtese deals done, primarly to keep Messi at Barcelona.”

Barca would part with Griezmann, Dembele and others

Antoine Griezmann, Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele are on a list of at least nine players Barcelona would be willing to part with this summer.

Although Lionel Messi’s future at the Nou Camp appears all-but assured, Barcelona will only be able to invest in further additions to their squad by arranging some significant departures.

Griezmann is undoubtedly the most eye-catching name among the group due to the massive £100m+ (€120m) investment it took to sign him from Atletico Madrid just two years ago. He was then the fifth-most expensive transfer of all time.

But Coutinho, Dembele and striker Martin Braithwaite are also at the forefront of the push for funds to boost the finances of a club which is mounted with huge debts exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Martin Braithwaite - formerly of Middlesbrough - put Barcelona into the Copa Del Rey final with an extra-time winner to beat Sevilla
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Martin Braithwaite’s value has risen because of his performances for club and country

Barcelona believe Braithwaite in particular has increased in value because of his performances for Denmark during Euro 2020 – he was also one of the cheaper arrivals in Catalonia, having only cost around £15m to trigger his release clause from Leganes in February 2020.

Griezmann is one of the highest-paid players in world football and Barcelona also need to cut down their wage bill, which led to recent discussions over a potential exchange that would have seen his return to Atletico and Saul Niguez join Barca – the clubs were unable to come to an agreement.

Ousmane Dembele scored as Barcelona moved closer to Atletico Madrid at the top of La Liga
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Ousmane Dembele has sometimes struggled to live up to his £100m price tag after moving from Borussia Dortmund

The Frenchman’s substantial salary means there are only a handful of clubs that can afford to take him on and Juventus are one big club not currently interested, according to Sky in Italy, nor in a return for Miralem Pjanic, who moved to Barca in a swap with Arthur Melo last summer.

Dembele and Clement Lenglet are other high-profile names Barcelona would be willing to listen to offers for – or at least include in swap deals for their targets – as well as goalkeeper Neto and right-backs Emerson and Moussa Wague.



Sergio Aguero will join Barcelona upon the expiration of his contract at Manchester City








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Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman highlighted the importance of new signing Sergio Aguero, saying the Argentine is ‘really good quality in the box’. Pictures from FC Barcelona

Barcelona’s management is also talking with a number of veteran players – Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto – over contract extensions and want them to follow their captain Messi in taking wage cuts.

Sky Sports News has been warned by sources in Spain that one of these stars also leaving cannot be ruled out at this stage.

Barca, Atleti in talks over Griezmann-Saul swap deal

Barcelona and Atletico Madrid are in talks about a swap deal which would see Antoine Griezmann and Saul Niguez switch clubs.

If the deal is completed, Griezmann would return to Atletico after moving to Barcelona in a €120m deal two years ago.

Barcelona believe Griezmann is worth more than Saul, and they are asking for €15m as part of the deal or more players such as Renan Lodi or Mario Hermoso.

Atletico are prepared to let Saul leave this summer after eight seasons at the club. He helped Atletico win La Liga last season.

Saul
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Barcelona are keen on sign Niguez from Atletico

Barcelona are willing to let Griezmann leave because they need to cut their wage bill.

Saul has been linked with a move to the Premier League, with reports crediting Manchester United and Liverpool with an interest in the midfielder.

Messi agrees new five-year Barca deal

Lionel Messi has agreed terms over a new deal at Barcelona
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Lionel Messi has agreed terms over a new deal at Barcelona

Lionel Messi has reached a verbal agreement on a five-year contract extension at Barcelona, with his salary to be reduced by 50 per cent under terms of the new deal.

The six-time Ballon d’Or winner was officially a free agent as of July 1 after he failed to agree terms over a renewal before his previous Barcelona contract expired on June 30.

Earlier in July, Messi led Argentina to the Copa America title thanks to a 1-0 win in the final against hosts Brazil, bringing an end to his wait for a first major international trophy.

The 34-year-old has now agreed to stay on at his boyhood club for another five years, meaning he will be 39 by the time his new deal runs out – when he will have totalled 26 years on the club’s books.

Messi Q&A: How Barcelona can afford deal










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Spanish football expert Euan McTear explains the structure of the new five-year deal Lionel Messi has reportedly agreed with Barcelona and how they are going about being able to finance it

Spanish football expert Euan McTear tells Sky Sports News why there has been a delay to Messi committing his future at the Nou Camp and the possible repercussions of the new five-year contract…

Why have Barcelona offered such a lengthy contract?

“The reason it’s a five-year deal is it is likely Messi will play the next two years but it’s a longer deal so that he stays linked to the club as an ambassador. But the talk is he might go to MLS after two years while still being paid by the club.

“It’s a way for Barcelona to spread out the payment over five years. That’s part of the reason he’s been able to take such a massive cut of around 50 per cent.”

Will a 50 per cent pay cut work for Barcelona?

“It might but they will still have more work to do. Messi has been convinced to stay on for a while now but one of the reasons why they have not been able to register him so far is down to La Liga regulations. They have very strict financial control rules, where you cannot register new players until you have met their guidelines.

“They need to clear a lot of salary off their books and they are still working to do that. It’s why there’s been reports they might make a swap deal with Saul Niguez at Atletico Madrid and Antoine Griezmann. It would partly free up Griezmann’s high wages to then pay Messi.



Lionel Messi (AP)








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Spanish Football expert Alvaro Montero says he expects Lionel Messi to re-sign for Barcelona despite the financial restrictions the club is facing at the moment

So Griezmann will be sacrificed for Messi?

“There’s a lot of talk in Spain that Griezmann will head back to Atletico Madrid, but their fans will not entertain the prospect of Saul leaving at all. Diego Simeone wants to have Griezmann back at the club, and he’s very much in charge so if he wants something he could well get it.

“Griezmann is currently in Ibiza on holiday but is on standby and ready to fly into Madrid if that swap deal does go through. It’s a way for Barcelona to save around €12m in wages.”

How have Barcelona hit financial problems?

“The coronavirus pandemic has affected everybody – it’s affected Real Madrid, Atletico and Premier League clubs. But Barcelona were already in a bad situation basically due to mismanagement under the Bartomeu administration that came before the Joan Laporta-led regime.

“They were just waiting for a natural disaster or a pandemic to push them over the edge to create all kinds of problems, and that’s exactly what’s happened.”