Thursday’s soccer news starts with the rebellious three from The Super League continuing in their refusal to give UEFA what it wants. That would seem to be apologizing like the other nine members of the breakaway. Instead, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Juventus released a joint statement calling out UEFA’s intention to sanction them while the three clubs move forward with their court case.
“Instead of exploring ways of modernizing football through open dialogue, UEFA expects us to withdraw the ongoing court proceedings that question their monopoly over European football,” their statement read. “Barcelona, Juventus and Real Madrid, all of them more than a century old, will not accept any form of coercion or intolerable pressure, while they remain strong in their willingness to debate, respectfully and through dialogue, the urgent solutions that football currently needs.”
They concluded with, “Either we reform football or we will have to watch its inevitable downfall.”
It’s easy enough to predict what kind of response that will get given the current environment, but it doesn’t make it wrong. Though it’s easy to side with protesting fans in the initial outpouring of angst over The Super League plan, that doesn’t necessarily make UEFA’s own plans the right way forward. What European professional soccer lacks right now is a clear vision that enough of its stakeholders, including ticket-buying fans, embrace. That kind of consensus may be difficult to impossible, but that highlights the problem with substantive changes that few watching the games seem to want.
How UEFA, as the governing body, figures that out will take more than condemning the teams continuing to insist on their right to break away. The Super League was more than a direct challenge to UEFA’s authority to stage the Champions League. It was pushing against the idea that further revamps of the Champions League will answer what for the clubs are significant problems. UEFA using this moment to stress its open structure in theory while making indictments of money in soccer should ring hollow for a reason. So should elite clubs pointing to economic problems that are, in part, of their own making. None of that changes the need for leadership in this moment.
Also in the soccer news, Villarreal won the 2020-21 Europa League title on penalties after drawing 1-1 in regulation with Manchester United. Gerard Moreno scored for Villarreal in the 29th minute with Edinson Cavani equalizing in the 55th. The penalty round went through the entire lineup with the goalkeepers facing off in what decided the game. Villarreal’s Geronimo Rulli converted his penalty and then saved David de Gea’s to win the game and improve his club’s Europa Conference League spot to the Champions League group stage.
“When it came to my spot-kick I simply didn’t think about it because that would have been the worst!,” Rulli said. “I just shot with all the force left in my body after a night like that. Really, I’ve no idea what I did. All I was conscious of was that it went in. What an end to a tremendous season. Not in my absolute wildest dreams did I ever imagine winning a penalty shootout like that for a trophy like this. To score the last one for us and save the last one from them… never.”
SI’s Avi Creditor profiles USMNT player Yunus Musah who should play his first game that counts for the national team in the Nations League. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jonathan Tannenwald has USMNT and Red Bull Salzburg player Brenden Aaronson describing his breakthrough season. The Athletic’s Christopher Kamrani on Clint Dempsey turning to broadcasting as part of the studio crew for the Nations League.
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