LONDON (Reuters) - FIFA President Gianni Infantino warned on Wednesday that any players taking part in a breakaway European super league would be excluded from the World Cup and other international tournaments.
Those who might be barred should such a league get off the ground could include the likes of Argentina’s Lionel Messi, Brazilian Neymar, France’s Kylian Mbappe and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo.
“You are either in or you are out,” the head of the world soccer body told a group of international reporters on Wednesday.
“If there are players who don’t play organized football then that encompasses everything — national leagues, confederation competitions, the Euros and the World Cup,” the Times newspaper quoted him as saying.
German news magazine Der Spiegel reported last week that plans for a Super League, involving top clubs such as Real Madrid and Manchester United, were back on the table.
The magazine shared access to the documents with Reuters and more than a dozen other media outlets in cooperation with European Investigative Collaborations (EIC).
Reuters was not invited to Wednesday’s meeting with Infantino.
According to Der Spiegel, a 16-team Super League would replace the Champions League and feature 11 ‘founders’ — including Messi’s Barcelona and Real Madrid — who could not be relegated for the first 20 years.
Other clubs mentioned include Manchester United, Mbappe and Neymar’s Paris St Germain, Bayern Munich and Ronaldo’s Juventus.
“We have seen for many years these attempts to break away outside of the structures, going back to the 1990s,” said Infantino.
“It is up to us to protect football and come up with solutions that benefit clubs and also the world football community.”
Infantino said the Club World Cup was his answer to any breakaway attempt, presenting it as a competition that would generate more revenues for the clubs but also benefit the soccer community.
“If clubs organize a breakaway Super League, who benefits? The clubs,” he said.
“If FIFA organizes a Club World Cup, UEFA continues to organize the Champions League and the Premier League continues to organize the Premier League then the clubs benefit but also 211 member associations.”
Infantino revealed plans in May for a new Global Nations League and a revamped Club World Cup which he says are backed by a ‘solid and serious’ group of investors willing to spend $25 billion over a 12-year cycle starting in 2021.
The Club World Cup, currently an annual tournament with seven teams, could become a four-yearly event featuring 24 clubs instead.
The European Leagues, which includes the Premier League, Bundesliga and La Liga, and European football’s governing body UEFA are among several organizations unwilling to endorse the plans at this stage.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis