Graeme Souness believes that the figures involved in the failed European Super League were only in it for a quick cash boost, before seeking other financial opportunities.
Controversial plans for the breakaway league crashed and burned on Tuesday after just 48 hours. Indeed, all six English teams pulled out in a matter of hours, starting with Chelsea. Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham later ended ties with the idea.
The prospect of a breakaway venture looked a real one on Sunday evening. Twelve clubs from across Europe had signed up and had readied legal action in the event of bans from UEFA and their domestic leagues.
The European Super League would have meant that an exclusive cohort of the world’s biggest clubs got richer. In contrast, though, the competition below them would have been wiped out.
Nevertheless, Souness believes that the chiefs involved in the plans may have gone on to ditch the idea after two seasons – a plan which has been “found out”.
“When people go into business at this level they’ve got an exit strategy,” he told Sky Sports.
“You can bet certain Americans were looking at this, [thinking] we’ll remain in this new league for two years, our assets will double in value and we’ll get out and we’ll move onto something else.”
He added on Liverpool fans’ reaction to their club’s involvement: “They’ve been found out. And we know as well as anyone, how will the scousers take to John Henry after this? I don’t know how he comes back from this.”
The announcement on Sunday evening came with a dedicated European Super League website and a press release.
Furthermore, American investment bank JP Morgan revealed on Monday that it was to fund the league.
As such, Souness added that the plans had been worked on for some time.
Souness thinks ESL chiefs planned extensively
“This wasn’t an idea someone had a fortnight ago, this has obviously been on the go for months and months and months,” the pundit added.
“So these chairmen have been going to Premier League meetings, albeit via Zoom no doubt, knowing that their intention was in a few months to pull out of the Premier League.
“So they’ve been so under-handed – these are relationships that will take some mending.
“And the biggest one is not chairman to chairman, it’s chairman to supporters, which is very important.”
Liverpool relationship damaged considerably
As for Liverpool’s involvement, Jamie Carragher insisted that the club’s Fenway Sports Group (FSG) owners have no way back after this move.
Souness agreed with his fellow former Red, saying: “I know the scousers, they will not forgive John Henry [Liverpool principal owner] for this, I can’t see how he gets back from this, I honestly can’t.
“I think it’s different for [Chelsea owner] Roman Abramovich. I think he’s been dragged in, and City have been dragged in. I imagine the catalysts for this would have been the Americans at Liverpool and Man United, along with the two big clubs in Spain who by all accounts are absolutely skint.
“How you recover from this I’m not quite sure, because the relationship between the supporter and the board in some cases will be damaged forever.”
Henry has apologised to Liverpool’s supporters for his role in the European Super League plans.