Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri says the Premier League’s big clubs “should blame themselves” if they fail to qualify for the Champions League while Manchester United’s Louis van Gaal is not a fan of the current European format.
Representatives from five established powers of the English game – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United – met with the chairman of American company Relevent Sports, Charlie Stillitano, in London on Tuesday.
The meeting was primarily about the pre-season International Champions Cup competition, which is staged in the United States and Asia and organised by Relevent Sports, and the clubs have denied that any discussions took place regarding a European Super League.
However, when asked if a Super League was still on the agenda, Stillitano told radio station Sirius XM on Thursday: ”I think it is. They’re talking about it all over Europe. At least a change in format.
”When they came up with the Champions League, the idea wasn’t to have PSV and Genk playing in the knock-out stage.
“What would Manchester United argue: did we create soccer or did Leicester create (it)?
“Let’s call it the money pot created by soccer and the fandom around the world. Who has had more of an integral role, Manchester United or Leicester? It’s a wonderful, wonderful story – but you could see it from Manchester United’s point of view, too.”
Leicester and Tottenham currently occupy the first two of the four Champions League places available for next season, with United and Liverpool currently outside the Premier League’s top four.
Asked about this week’s events, Ranieri said on Friday: “This is sport, no? I understand they want to do something, but if something strange happens, they shouldn’t blame the little teams, they should blame themselves.
“(Talk surrounding a Super League) is speculation. They are trying to do something, but I think people must think about what fans want, not only about money, because the culture and the fans are more important than other things.”
Former Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Ajax boss Van Gaal, meanwhile, claims he has never been a supporter of plans to form an elite league made up of Europe’s biggest clubs.
The Dutchman even suggested the Champions League should revert back to its old format when only domestic league winners were invited to take part.
The Champions League first allowed the runners-up of eight domestic leagues to participate in the 1997-98 season, when Van Gaal was in charge at Barcelona.
“Everybody knows, when you follow my career, that I am against all the super leagues and something like that,” he said.
“Sport is to be the best and also when the Champions League was (expanding), I said it was rubbish because now the second, third and fourth team is also playing.
“It has to be between champions in my opinion. I said that 20 years ago and I say it now again.
“I think sport is to win, not to be second or third.”
Chelsea interim boss Guus Hiddink appeared to support Ranieri and Van Gaal in suggesting qualification for Europe’s elite competition should be based on sporting success rather than financial might.
“I think we must all be careful to go into exclusivity when teams like, this year, surprisingly, Leicester is mixing in,” he said.
“They have the full right to be where they are now and are a good contender for the next Champions League this year.”
UEFA is aware of the threat of a breakaway competition but remains confident the continent’s elite clubs will remain committed to the Champions League.
It has been suggested that Europe’s top clubs may attempt to exploit the leadership vacuum at UEFA, which has stated it will not set a date for presidential elections until Michel Platini’s hearing over his ban from football at the Court of Arbitration for Sport has been heard.
Greek official Theodore Theodoridis was on Friday unveiled as interim general secretary at UEFA’s executive committee in Nyon, replacing Gianni Infantino who was last week elected the new FIFA president.
While Theodoridis has faith that UEFA will not be deserted, he is keen to continue discussions with all clubs to ensure their needs are satisfied.
He said in a video broadcast on www.uefa.org: “We have experienced a very positive attitude in our discussions with the clubs. What we’re facing is constructive discussions.
“I’m not very worried. It is a big challenge for us, definitely, but I trust also our management that we will be taking the right decisions into the future, always in consultancy with the clubs.”