• Real Madrid president Florentino Perez. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Spanish giants Real Madrid have emerged as the biggest losers in the European Super League standoff that, for two full days of tension and intrigue, had the game of football on the brink of a civil war.
Philip Micallef

SBS The World Game
24 Apr 2021 - 12:35 PM  UPDATED 24 Apr 2021 - 1:02 PM

Thankfully, commonsense has prevailed and eight of the original 'dirty dozen' clubs that announced a Super League in opposition to the UEFA Champions League to be launched "as soon as practicable" have withdrawn their intent.

England's 'big six' comprising Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Liverpool along with Spain's Atletico Madrid and Italy's Internazionale are out.

This leaves Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and AC Milan to carry the can of a project that was doomed to fail from the very start because none of the rebel clubs anticipated the level of anger their greed-inspired move would spark.

Not surprisingly, the plan has been ditched but only fools would suggest that this concept will not resurface when Europe's elite feel that the time is ripe.

Eleven clubs will probably survive the massive public relations disaster they have only themselves to blame for.

But for Madrid the ramifications will be more serious and far-reaching.

Madrid, remember, are the world's greatest, most successful and most glamorous club.

Forget Milan, Liverpool, Barcelona and Bayern Munich: Real Madrid are at the next level.

They made the European Cup/Champions League what it is today by ushering in a brand of fantastic football that would become the benchmark for excellence for decades.

True champions like Alfredo Di Stefano, Ferenc Puskas, Francisco Gento and Jose Santamaria were to world football in the late 1950s and early 1960s what Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, Cristiano Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos would become in more recent times.

'Los Blancos' earned a reputation of a club that not only loved winning trophies but that it also wanted to do it in style.

Which is why they were envied and admired all over the world and every player dreamed of donning the famous all white strip.

But president Florentino Perez's manic drive to destroy the game as we know it and the very competition his club made famous to suit his greed, selfishness and ambition may have changed the world's perception of his storied club.

Not only is he seen as the ring leader of a failed coup but he has antagonised anyone who loves the game by his steadfast refusal to admit defeat and acknowledge he has made a huge mistake.

Perez, a construction billionaire, is in his second stint as leader of the club and must find ways to pay off a debt that is reported to be an equivalent of $1.4 billion.

This is extraordinary when you consider that Madrid won four of the five Champions League titles from 2014 to 2018.

Which explains why he was so keen on a Super League featuring big games every week that have been described as glorified friendlies and that could have wiped out the debt in two or three seasons. And to hell with history and tradition.

Thankfully, most reasonable fans did not buy into this folly. Perez said later with a straight face and without any hint of an apology that all he wanted was for Super League to save football, which is going broke. He was more like trying to save Madrid, from the looks of things.

It is with this backdrop that Madrid entertain Chelsea in the first leg of the Champions League semi-finals on Wednesday.

Zidane's team might be seen as the bad guys in this clash with 'good guys' Chelsea who were among the first to pull out of Super League and have since apologised.

We plebs are not privy to what goes on in football's murky corridors of power but I would be deeply reluctant to hail the Londoners for their withdrawal.

Chelsea did not do the right thing, they just lost their nerve in trying to do the wrong thing.

But they will be forgiven, no doubt about that.

Real Madrid might find it much harder to win back their reputation.