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Napoli president De Laurentiis calls for 14-team Italian ‘elite’ league following Super League verdict

By CJ Smith

Napoli president De Laurentiis calls for 14-team Italian 'elite' league following Super League verdict

Published: 13:04, 22 December 2023

Thursday saw the drama of the European Super League resurface once again but one man to give a rather bizarre verdict on the matter was Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis.

32 months after the project was launched and then very quickly dumped, the ESL stole the headlines again as, on Thursday, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg ruled that governing bodies Uefa and Fifa had ‘abused a dominant position’ by threatening the Super League clubs and their players with sanctions and exclusion from major competitions. The ECJ also concluded the bodies acted ‘unlawfully’ in their attempts to block the project.


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Within a matter of hours, a new 64-team, multi-divisional ESL project was announced, with Real Madrid president Florentino Perez once again at the forefront. However, a number of big European clubs — including both Manchester giants, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Inter and PSG — quickly moved to reject the ESL, affirming their commitment to their existing domestic and continental models.

But if there’s one man in football who can always be relied upon to offer an alternative view, it’s De Laurentiis. The Napoli chief, for starters, has never been a fan of Uefa or Fifa.

“UEFA and FIFA’s dominant position which has been censored by Europe, has been used to give benefits in return for support,” De Laurentiis told Il Corriere dello Sport.

“Those who have ruled until now as monopolists have not understood that football is a business that needs growing revenue.”

While De Laurentiis never had faith in the Super League project, he has remained in contact with Perez and believes there is a need for sweeping changes in football.

“The Super League was a wrong move which, however, led to a change. Now we need some serious thought,” he continued.

“I’ve spoken to Florentino [Perez] and we’ve agreed that we’ll put some real businessmen around a table. Today’s football is managed by old people who have no vision.”

Most sensationally, De Laurentiis called for the creation of a ‘League E’, with the ‘E’ standing for ‘Elite’. In short, he wants a 14-team Italian version of the Super League consisting only of teams from large cities or with strong financial backing, with the rest locked out with no promotion or relegation.

“I would immediately create a League E, where E stands for Élite. Only teams from cities with a relevant number of citizens. A Palermo side that gives financial guarantees doesn’t need to come all the way from Serie D. Bari, with more than one million fans potentially, can’t stay where they are,” he said.

“Now we have teams in Serie A that are from cities with 20,000 citizens. They don’t even sell 10,000 tickets per game. Seven or eight clubs dominate the league, so just add seven more with the same ambitions and we can do an Élite League with 14 clubs. Then, two Serie A groups with 20 teams. The rest is amateur football and can be used as a youth sector.

“It would be like Basketball in the USA. Arenas are always sold out. Ask yourself how much they earn. Some argue that the competitive sense would be lost. This isn’t true at all.”

How have the Italian teams reacted to the new European Super League proposal?

Napoli themselves were not a part of the original ESL proposal, but fellow Italian giants Inter, AC Milan and Juventus were, with chairman of the latter, Andrea Agnelli, playing a key role as an ESL vice-chairman.

However, Inter quickly moved to back Uefa, Fifa and the European Club Association (ECA) in light of Thursday’s proposals, while they were joined by the likes of Atalanta and AS Roma.

AC Milan and Juventus are yet to post any official response to the new ESL proposal or ECJ ruling.

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