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Ceferin’s comeback | Marca

No one would have thought it on Sunday night, but one of the big winners of the European Super League fiasco might just turn out to be UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin.

The breakaway proposal by 12 of Europe’s wealthiest clubs went over UEFA’s head and behind its back to threaten and undermine its position.

If the plans had succeeded, there would surely have been no way back for Ceferin as the man who oversaw European football being torn apart.

The Super League clubs decided that they no longer needed UEFA and would be better off organising their own midweek tournament instead of competing in UEFA’s existing ones.

UEFA’s response to what was a real and existential threat had to be strong and Ceferin came out swinging to defend his and the organisation’s place at the top of the European game.

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Ceferin’s words were strong and so were his actions as he swiftly looked into the legalities of banning players and teams from UEFA club and international competitions effective immediately.

“Players who will play in the teams that might play in the closed league will be banned from the World Cup and European Championship,” said Ceferin.

“We’re still assessing with our legal team but we will take all the sanctions that we can and we will inform you as soon we can.

“My opinion is that as soon as possible they have to be banned from all our competitions and the players from all our competitions.”

The Slovenian, who has been UEFA president since 2016, not only threatened action but was fiercely critical of those behind the plans.

“I cannot stress more strongly how everyone is united against these disgraceful, self-serving proposals, fuelled by greed above all else,” said Ceferin.

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“[It is a] cynical plan, completely against what football should be. We cannot and will not allow that to change.

This idea is a spit in the face of all football lovers, we will not allow them to take it away from us.”

Arguably this stance was a bold one from Ceferin, opting to attack and shame the wantaway clubs into retreating rather than attempting to woo them back onside.

It seems to be paying off, however, with the overwhelming reaction from fans demonstrating that he was right to say supporters do not want the European Super League.

The whole project has taken just a few days to all but completely collapse, leaving Ceferin and UEFA looking more powerful than ever.

Interestingly, when clubs began to pull out of the European Super League, Ceferin’s tone changed, instantly welcoming the prodigal sons back into UEFA’s bosom and seeking to mend broken bonds.

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“I said yesterday that it is admirable to admit a mistake and these clubs made a big mistake,” said Ceferin after the six English clubs all withdrew.

“But they are back in the fold now and I know they have a lot to offer not just to our competitions but to the whole of the European game.

The important thing now is that we move on, rebuild the unity that the game enjoyed before this and move forward together.

The indication, therefore, seems to be that UEFA are willing to forgive and forget, relieved, perhaps, to have dodged this bullet.

For some fans, this may not be enough as they will demand that the clubs whose greed threatened to destroy the game as we know it are punished and taught a lesson.

They might argue that there is nothing to stop these clubs, or others, hatching another plot to go it alone at some point in the near future if there is no consequence for their actions.

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Ceferin, however, is likely wary of the power these clubs still wield, even if he has bested them in this round, he doesn’t want to risk overplaying his hand.

The increased funding for the Champions League, the new format to be introduced in 2024/25 and the expected relaxation of Financial Fair Play rules indicate that there is room for the elite clubs to be appeased without leaving UEFA‘s jurisdiction.

From the perspective of strengthening his own position and UEFA’s status, Ceferin has played this very smartly, going in strong but then rewarding those who heeded his warning.

Whether or not that is good enough for fans seeking justice and a fairer game is another question entirely.

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