Manchester City have confirmed their withdrawal from the proposed European Super League, leaving the controversial tournament in tatters within 48 hours of being announced.
Condemnation of the project, which drew the ire of fans, players, coaches, federations and national governments, was near universal following Sunday’s rollout, which detailed how the Premier League’s ‘big six’ would be founder members of the Super League alongside Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Milan and Inter.
The closed-shop element of the league was noted as being contrary to European football’s traditions of fair competition – an observation made by City manager Pep Guardiola on Tuesday, among many others.
Speculation mounted as a dramatic day progressed, with Chelsea also thought to be ready to pull the plug.
Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward resigned from his post, although the club claim this decision is not directly related to the apparently doomed Super League project.
Stats Perform News understands Woodward has brought forward the announcement of a planned exit at the end of this year due to the likelihood of leaks.
A short statement issued from the other side of town read: “Manchester City Football Club can confirm that it has formally enacted the procedures to withdraw from the group developing plans for a European Super League.”
Moments after City confirmed their withdrawal, a statement from UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin welcomed the Champions League semi-finalists “back into the European football family”.
“They have shown great intelligence in listening to the many voices – most notably their fans – that have spelled out the vital benefits that the current system has for the whole of European football; from the world-beating Champions League final right down to a young player’s first coaching session at a grassroots club,” Ceferin said.
“As I said at the UEFA Congress, it takes courage to admit a mistake but I have never doubted that they had the ability and common sense to make that decision.
“City are a real asset for the game and I am delighted to be working with them for a better future for the European game.”
Speaking earlier on Tuesday, ostensibly to preview his team’s Premier League trip to Aston Villa, Guardiola become the first person associated with City to speak publicly about the matter of the European Super League and left little doubt where he stood on a concept he described as an affront to sporting competition.
“Sport is not a sport when the relation between the effort and reward doesn’t exist,” he said.
“It’s not sport when success is guaranteed, when it doesn’t matter if you lose. I want the best competitions as strong as possible. In this statement, it’s what I feel. This is not sport.”
As cracks began to appear in the Super League project, City’s star midfielder Kevin De Bruyne echoed his manager’s sentiments in a Twitter statement.
“I have worked and competed against everybody trying to win the ultimate. But the most important word in this is COMPETING,” he wrote.
“With all events that have been happening the last few days maybe this is the good moment for everybody to come together and try the work for a solution.
“We know this is a big business and I know I am part of this business. But still I am a little boy who just loves to play football. It’s not about a certain entity in this case, it’s about football over the whole world.
“Let’s keep inspiring the next generation of footballers and keep the fans dreaming.”
After City confirmed their exit, De Bruyne’s team-mate Raheem Sterling simply tweeted: “Ok bye”.
The farewells look set to keep piling up for this ill-conceived attempt to reshape European football.
A statement issued by the FA praised the role of fan pressure in helping to bring about the U-turn.
“We welcome the news that some of the clubs have decided to abandon plans for the European Super League, which threatened the whole football pyramid,” it read.
“English football has a proud history based on opportunity for all clubs and the game has been unanimous in its disapproval of a closed league. It was a proposition that, by design, could have divided our game; but instead, it has unified us all.
“We would like to thank the fans in particular for their influence and unequivocal voice during this time, holding true the guiding principles of football. It is a powerful reminder that the game is, and always will be, for the fans.”