Florentino Perez’s fury with ‘meaningless’ EU over illegal aid ruling before Super League

Barcelona: Police arrive at club headquarters for 'Barcagate'

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The likes of Real Madrid, and Spanish rivals Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, rocked the footballing world after it was announced a new breakaway league had been created. Spain’s top teams could join some of England and Italy’s biggest, and most wealthiest, clubs, in the ESL – if the tournament is given approval. Figures from inside UEFA – the continent’s football association that oversees the sport – and the EU have condemned the decision, echoing the sentiments expressed from fans, pundits and politicians the world over.

Defending the project, Mr Perez claimed the new league “will help football at every level and take it to its rightful place in the world”.

Mr Perez, who has been Real Madrid’s President since 2009, is no stranger to feeling the wrath of organisations such as UEFA and the EU, and he himself took aim at Brussels in one withering attack.

In the aftermath of Real Madrid being ordered by the EU to repay €18.4m (£15.8m) over an alleged illegal aid payment, Mr Perez hit out at the bloc’s decision.

The EU demand came as a result of accusations the European Commission made to Real and Madrid city council over a reported illegal payment “related to the sale of a plot of municipal land”.

The row began in 1998, when Real Madrid paid around €595,000 (£513,000) for a piece of land – although the deal eventually fell through due to “technical problems”.

In 2011, the city itself paid the football club around €22.7m (£23.2m) in compensation over the land deal.

But upon hearing of the sizeable cash handed to Real Madrid, the Commission acted by hiring an assessor – who found the figure given to the club was “overstated” by €18.4m.

This, the assessor reported, “amounted to illicit aid”.

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Mr Perez said of the assessor’s outcome: “It’s meaningless when you see it’s been carried out by a company from Barcelona that furthermore is tiny and not an expert.

“There’s nothing in this case.

“We are going to file an appeal against the European Commission’s assessment.”

But more recently Mr Perez’s pledge to fight the case took a fresh twist, after rivals Barcelona lost a similar bid to overturn an EU decision.

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Last month, Barcelona was unable to push through its attempts to overturn a claim it had received “unfair state aid through tax breaks”.

The ruling will mean that both teams are now liable to repay millions of pounds they were given from the Spanish government during the Nineties.

Both clubs have faced their troubles on, and off, the pitch this season, with Barcelona embroiled in financial security woes – due to the pandemic and an overspend on transfers.

The teams also struggled in Spain’s top league La Liga at the beginning of the season, but have now managed to begin to secure some momentum as the end of the tournament comes into sight.

But with the announcement that these two giants of Spanish football have signed up to the breakaway ESL, further scrutiny on them – and the other 10 ‘Founding Clubs’ – will only be heightened.

Speaking on Tuesday, after the outrage of the ESL showed no signs of dampening, Mr Perez claimed: “Whenever there is a change, there are always people who oppose it. We are doing this to save football at this critical moment.

“Audiences are decreasing and rights are decreasing and something had to be done. We are all ruined. Television has to change so we can adapt.

“Young people are no longer interested in football. Why not? Because there are a lot of poor quality games and they are not interested, they have other platforms on which to distract themselves.”

Reports that the likes of Real Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester City could all be banned from this year’s Champions League have also emerged since Sunday’s bombshell announcement.

The Champions League is UEFA’s flagship competition, and if the ESL is successful in its bid to begin, it would be severely diluted with the continents most profitable clubs no longer taking part in it.

In response to the ESL, UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin added: “This idea is a spit in the face of all football lovers and of society as a whole.

“We will not allow them to take it away from us.”

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