Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola criticised UEFA on Friday over a revamped Champions League format they fear will push their players to breaking point.
Both clubs are members of the Premier League’s “big six”, all of whom signed up to a breakaway European Super League, which collapsed this week after a furious backlash from fans.
With the ESL a non-starter in its proposed format, Klopp and Guardiola – who both condemned the proposed tournament before its collapse – turned their guns on UEFA.
From 2024, the number of teams participating in the group stage of the Champions League will increase from 32 to 36, it was confirmed earlier this week.
Teams will play against 10 different sides, with five games at home and five away.
“You can’t just introduce always more competitions,” Klopp said. “Very good that the new Super League is off the table, but the new Champions League is not great.
“The only people who never get asked are the coaches, the players and the supporters. UEFA didn’t ask us.
“I know the supporters think ‘Play more games, they get paid a lot of money’ but we are already on the edge. Believe me, when all the coaches think the same there must be something that it could be a little too much.”
Guardiola also voiced fears over the expanded schedule.
“Every time it’s the same,” he said. “All of football asks for better quality and they (UEFA) go for quantity.
“We are not in charge so maybe we have to ask UEFA and (world governing body) FIFA to extend the year. Maybe we could have 400 days a year and they will be a solution. I don’t know, honestly.”
‘Do they care?’
Guardiola accused UEFA of ignoring the potential injury risks, saying the players had to shoulder a heavy workload for club and country.
“Every season is the same,” he said. “The players love to play but sometimes the injuries come. UEFA knows it, of course, but do they care? Absolutely not.”
Manchester United’s owners the Glazer family were one of the driving forces behind the Super League project, which also involved Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal, plus six clubs from Italy and Spain as part of an initial group of 12.
The Glazers’ role infuriated fans, with some invading United’s training ground on Thursday to protest.
United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer came out to placate the protesters and on Friday he insisted the Super League concept had been a bad idea.
“I’m very happy that the fans have voiced their opinion and that we’ve listened to them,” he said. “I didn’t like the concept anyway because it has to be on sporting merit. I want to earn the right to play in Europe.”
Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel admitted he was relieved not to have to deal with the distraction of the Super League any longer.
Tuchel and his players were stuck on the team bus while protesting fans gathered outside Stamford Bridge before their 0-0 draw against Brighton on Tuesday.
“I’m part of the club, but it’s the owner and the club’s decision, and now they change that decision,” Tuchel said.
“There’s no need to apologise to me directly, my job is to adapt to the circumstances. And were we distracted? Yeah clearly.
“I arrived in a state of mind on Tuesday that was clearly not the mindset that I normally arrive in.”