Klopp passionately adds to growing unrest over new Champions League format

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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp does not think we have heard the last of plans like the Super League as the debate over top-level club competition continues – with players “already on the edge”.

In a direct challenge to UEFA’s Champions League, 12 clubs announced late last Sunday night they had signed up to compete in the Super League.

However, by Wednesday afternoon nine had withdrawn amid fan protests and outrage from governing bodies, players and politicians alike.

Along with the Reds, Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham all swiftly confirmed they would withdraw from the proposals which would have seen founder members exempt from relegation.

The furore over the Super League has overshadowed UEFA’s decision to approve changes to the format of the Champions League from 2024. The competition is to be increased from 32 to 36 teams, with a revamped group stage that will see all teams play at least 10 fixtures.

Klopp was unhappy with the lack of dialogue for the people who have to deliver the product – namely the coaches and players.

The German believes the failure of the Super League will not be the end of the problem for the top clubs.

“The most positive thing is it didn’t happen, but what I’ve heard is it is not over yet – I don’t mean that the Super League could still happen, but there are discussions about other things,” Klopp said.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, April 14, 2021: Liverpool's Andy Robertson looks dejected after the UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final 2nd Leg game between Liverpool FC and Real Madird CF at Anfield. The game ended in a goal-less draw, Real Madrid won 3-1 on aggregate. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“You cannot just introduce new competitions. Yes, the Super League is off the table. Good. Very good. But the new Champions League – ‘oh great, let’s just do that’.

“UEFA showed it to me, they called me and gave one hour, the whole idea, and I said ‘I don’t like it because there are 10 games instead of six’. I have no idea where we shall put them.”

Klopp has consistently complained about the number of games players are faced with and believes a 36-team Champions League will have repercussions elsewhere.

“Maybe UEFA will ask for a cup competition to be cancelled in England, or they have 18 teams in a league,” Klopp added. “If you tell that to the Premier League then they say ‘No way’.

“I know the supporters think ‘Play more games, they get paid a lot of money’, but we are already on the edge.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp (left) and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola after the final whistle during the Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester. (Martin Rickett/PA Wire/PA Images)

“Believe me, when all the coaches think the same there must be something that it could be a little too much.

“But UEFA didn’t ask us, the Super League didn’t ask us – just ‘Play more games’. The structure at the moment, it is just not possible.”

City boss Pep Guardiola also questioned the wisdom of the new format.

“Every time it’s the same,” he said. “All the managers and players ask for better quality and the football world goes for quantity.

“But we are not in charge of that. We have to ask UEFA and FIFA to extend the year, maybe have 400 days a year. Maybe then they can find a solution on that.

“Every season is the same. The players love to play, but sometimes the injuries come.

BRIGHTON & HOVE, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 28, 2020: Liverpool's James Milner is treated for an injury during the FA Premier League match between Brighton & Hove Albion FC and Liverpool FC at the AMEX Stadium. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by Propaganda)

“Of course there will be more injuries. These guys will finish an incredibly tough season, have five or six days off and then go to their national teams.

“The managers for the national teams will want them to train to make a good competition in the Euros. Then when it’s finished they’ll have 10-15 days off.

“If the club is demanding they will make a tour of New York or Asia. Then they’ll have to come back for the Community Shield if they’ve won the Premier League. And you have to play to win because the people demand it.

“Every season is the same. The players love to play, but sometimes the injuries come. UEFA knows it, of course, but do they care? Absolutely not.”

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel has insisted there is “no need” for anyone at the club to apologise but admitted the saga had been “distracting”, with fan protests outside Stamford Bridge ahead of Tuesday’s goalless draw with Brighton.

Tuchel also believes the ‘big six’ clubs will be able to rebuild any eroded trust with their supporters.

“They were absolutely not happy, the fans, obviously,” he said.

“But I don’t think it affects in general the opinion of what, for example, our owner of this club does for the community, does for the academy, for the women’s team and for the first team.”

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, meanwhile, never liked the concept of the ESL and is glad fan power came out on top.

“In a strange sort of way it’s brought the football pyramid or community together. I think that’s important and I’m very happy,” he said.

“I want to earn the right to play in Europe.”

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