Milan (AFP) – Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini expressed his relief on Wednesday after the collapse of the European Super League and thanked managers at clubs involved for speaking out against the project.
Twelve major European clubs, including Italian sides Juventus, Inter Milan and AC Milan, announced the launch of the breakaway tournament, which would have seen 15 founding clubs never have to qualify, on Monday.
But, less than 48 hours later, the proposal was left in tatters after the six English clubs withdrew, with the Serie A sides and Atletico Madrid seemingly following suit on Wednesday.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp were among those to criticise the plans, despite their clubs being part of them.
“We’re very happy to return to the pitch. On Monday it seemed that playing was no longer needed, we all wondered if the championship would end there or not,” Gasperini said ahead Thursday’s Serie A game at Roma.
“What can be taken from this today is great admiration for what Guardiola, Klopp, the Liverpool players, Chelsea fans and (Sassuolo coach Roberto) De Zerbi said.
“The reaction of people and the fans was beautiful.”
Atalanta played the Champions League in 2019/20 for the first time in their history and made the quarter-finals before reaching this season’s last 16, and are targeting the competition again next term.
Last weekend, the Bergamo club beat Juventus for the first time in Serie A since 2001 and sit third in the table ahead of the Italian champions.
“Until two days ago, I had never heard so much about sporting merit, we were only talking about economic objectives,” continued Gasperini.
“I can only wish that, with all this, performances like that of Atalanta or other small clubs can become more common, with a system that allows it.”
In Italy, Sassuolo coach De Zerbi said he wanted to boycott Wednesday’s game against AC Milan due to the club’s involvement.
Milan have since accepted the failure of the project.
“I want to apologise to fans,” said Milan club director Paolo Maldini before the Sassuolo game.
“It’s normal that the management of a big club in 2021 know the importance of financial revenues, but the lesson to be taken from this affair is how far can we go.
“Certainly not to change the principles of sport, meritocracy and dreams which must be guaranteed to everyone.”