Sport

‘Historic opportunity’: Barcelona stay committed to European Super League

Barcelona have justified signing up to the European Super League by saying it was a “historic opportunity” to guarantee football’s financial sustainability, adding that they remain committed to the project even as other clubs jump ship.

The Catalan club, who beat Getafe 5-2 on Thursday evening to move back into third place in La Liga, said in a statement on Thursday that the project required further analysis and could be set up in a different format but appeared to rule out joining Atlético Madrid and the six English clubs in leaving.

“Given the public reaction that the aforementioned project has generated … there is no question FC Barcelona appreciates a much more in-depth analysis is required into the reasons that have caused this reaction,” the statement said. “Such in-depth analysis needs time and the necessary composure to avoid taking any rash action.”

Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur abandoned the project on Tuesday while Atlético joined them on Wednesday. Juventus, Inter Milan and Milan also accepted the plan had failed.

The Real Madrid president, Florentino Pérez, has refused to accept the project is dead, however, while the Barcelona chief, Joan Laporta, said earlier on Thursday the Super League was a necessity but was open to dialogue with the European governing body Uefa.

Barcelona are in a deep financial crisis despite being the most valuable club in the world and the one with the biggest income. Their statement added that structural reforms were needed “to guarantee the financial sustainability and feasibility of world football”, explaining they agreed to join the Super League “as a matter of immediate urgency”.

It also described the breakaway project, which has been fiercely criticised by supporters and political leaders across Europe, as “a competition designed to improve the quality and attractiveness of the product offered to the football fans”.

Barcelona said: “The decision was made in the conviction that it would have been a historical error to turn down the opportunity to be part of this project as one of its founding members. As one of the world’s top sports club, our intention shall always be to be at the forefront, this being an indispensable part of the club’s identity and its sporting, social and institutional spirit.”

On Thursday, Messi scored twice as Barça crushed Getafe 5-2 on Thursday to stay in the hunt for the La Liga title. Getafe gave Ronald Koeman’s side a guard of honour for their recent Copa del Rey triumph but the visitors also wore T-shirts saying “Earn It”, criticising Barcelona’s decision to sign up to the European Super League.

Messi gave Barça an early lead with the help of a pin-point pass from Sergio Busquets but Getafe pulled level with an own goal by Clement Lenglet. The visitors then conceded a calamitous own goal when Sofian Chakla’s backpass deceived keeper David Soria and trickled over the line.

Messi extended Barça’s lead before halftime, hitting the post then following up to net from a tight angle and to move on to 25 La Liga goals for the 12th season in a row. But the Catalans slowed down in the second half and Turkish forward Enes Ünal made for an exciting finish by converting a penalty in the 69th minute following a VAR review for a foul by Ronald Araújo.

Getafe had a couple of half-chances to level but Uruguayan defender Araújo made amends for his foul on Ünal by heading in Messi’s corner in the 87th minute to effectively kill the game.

Barça earned a penalty in added time but Messi surrendered the chance to score a hat-trick and handed the ball to Antoine Griezmann who slammed in the spot-kick. The win took Barça back up to third place on 68 points, five behind leaders Atletico Madrid but with a game in hand.