LONDON, April 21 (Reuters) – The European Super League coalition appeared to be crumbling further on Wednesday, with Italian club Inter Milan expected to join the six England teams to withdraw from the controversial breakaway league.
A source close to Inter Milan confirmed to Reuters that they were no longer interested in the project “in light of the latest developments”.
Inter’s departure would leave the ESL with just five teams: Juventus and AC Milan from Serie A, along with Spanish teams Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.
Manchester City were the first to withdraw from the company on Tuesday, before Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea followed suit.
Liverpool’s main owner, John Henry, apologized on Wednesday in a video posted on the club’s website and social media.
“It goes without saying, but it has to be said that the proposed project would never last without the support of the fans,” he said.
“I am solely responsible for the unnecessary negativity that has been brought out in recent days. It is something that I will not forget.
After causing a massive backlash from players, fans and football authorities, the Super League said late on Tuesday it would reconsider and try to ‘reform’ the project, without throwing in the towel.
Juventus president Andrea Agnelli hit a more defiant note in an interview with an Italian newspaper, although it was held before the Super League declaration.
“There is a blood pact among our clubs, we will continue,” Agnelli told La Repubblica when asked if the ESL was sinking after England’s withdrawal.
“Yes, it has a 100% chance of success.”
The Super League had argued that it would increase the top clubs’ revenues and allow them to distribute more money across the rest of the game.
However, the sport’s governing bodies, other teams and fan organizations said the escape movement would only increase the power and wealth of the elite clubs, and that the partially closed structure goes against the long-standing model of European football.
Agnelli said threats from football authorities to ban Super League clubs from European competitions were “illegal” and Juventus players were not concerned about that.
“What I fear more is a monopoly in trying to stop a company and its players from exercising their freedom enshrined in the EU treaty,” he said.
“We need to get out of this monopoly situation where our regulators are our main rivals.”
Players, fans and experts celebrated the England teams’ U-turns, with some declaring the Super League dead in the water.
“This is the right outcome for football fans, clubs and communities across the country. We must continue to protect our cherished national game,” said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
“What a great day for football. Let’s keep playing, keep fighting, keep dreaming,” said Manchester City defender Benjamin Mendy.
Amid fans’ festivities, the anger persisted. Some experts said the owners of the English teams would never be forgiven and called on them to withdraw.
“They were going to sell the souls of our major football institutions,” said Liverpool-great Graeme Souness.
“I don’t know how these clubs will manage to get out of the way again.”
(Report by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Additional reporting by Giulia Segreti in Rome, Guy Faulconbridge in London, Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; edited by Peter Rutherford)