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Agnelli’s failed coup: ‘Judas-like’ Juventus president has lost powerful allies over Super League ‘betrayal’

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Agnelli's failed coup: 'Judas-like' Juventus president has lost powerful allies over Super League 'betrayal'

On Tuesday night in Rome, a new mural appeared on a wall on Via Caccini, close to the headquarters of the Italian football federation (FIGC). 

It depicts a stone-faced Andrea Agnelli puncturing a football with a golden dagger.

Street artist Laika has christened the piece ‘Il Golpe Fallito’ (‘The Failed Coup’), in reference to the doomed European Super League (ESL), which collapsed almost as rapidly as it had been founded.

After decades of posturing and threats by Europe’s elite clubs, talk of a breakaway tournament had resurfaced on Saturday afternoon.

UEFA had just finalised plans for a revamped Champions League but the governing body’s president, Aleksandar Ceferin, received calls from five of the 12 founders of the ESL to confirm that the rumours were true.

The stunned Slovenian eventually managed to get in touch with the European Club Association (ECA) chairman Agnelli, who assured him that the whole thing was “bullsh*t”.

“Don’t worry,” the Italian said, “nothing is going on.”

According to Ceferin, after the pair had exchanged several calls and agreed to issue a joint-statement on the matter, Agnelli promised to ring him back in an hour. But he didn’t. Instead, he turned off his phone.

Within 24 hours, Agnelli had quit the ECA and resigned from his role on the UEFA Executive Committee, and had been confirmed as the vice-president of the new ESL.

Just two days after agreeing to UEFA’s proposed changes to the Champions League, Agnelli had turned his back on them… and his friend.

Ceferin called Manchester United’s Ed Woodward, AC Milan’s Ivan Gazidis and Real Madrid’s Pedro Lopes “snakes” but it was Agnelli he labelled “the most disappointing” figure in the attempted breakaway. After all, he was godfather to the Juventus president’s youngest child.

“I don’t want to be too personal but the fact is that I have never seen a person that would lie so many times and as persistently as he did,” Ceferin told reporters on Monday. “It was unbelievable.”

When asked by 24ur on Thursday if he had been naive to trust Agnelli, Ceferin replied, “Better to be naive than a liar.”

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Ceferin wasn’t the only one left outraged by Agnelli’s perceived betrayal.

In Italy, there was also disgust at how the Bianconeri supremo, in conjunction with Milan CEO Gazidis and Inter counterpart Beppe Marotta, had allegedly “sabotaged” Serie A.

As Torino president Urbano Cairo revealed, Agnelli had been part of the internal committee charged with overseeing the sale of TV rights and a 10 per cent stake in the media company set up by the league to a private investor for approximately €1.7 billion (£1.5bn/$2bn).

“Therefore, he had a very important role in the talks,” Cairo explained to reporters. “The committee of five, which was created on October 13, 2020, had been delegated to control the talks on behalf of all of the other clubs.

“Suddenly, though, there was a U-turn. Despite the vote from the assembly to support the idea, Agnelli and the Inter owners suddenly distanced themselves from it. Now, we know why.

“We now come to discover that there were these negotiations between 12 European clubs, all of them heavily in debt, with secret meetings between Agnelli and (Real Madrid president) Florentino Perez.

“This is unfair competition, this is lying, this is bad faith. You are delegated by the Serie A clubs to negotiate on their behalf and meanwhile are negotiating on another front to work out your own financial problems by damaging the clubs who gave you the mandate?”

Consequently, Agnelli received a frosty reception when he appeared at an emergency league meeting on Monday to discuss Juve, Inter and Milan joining the Super League.

The three ‘rebels’, as they were dubbed by the Italian press, insisted that they wished to remain in Serie A.

However, according to La Repubblica, when it was pointed out that Juve, Inter and Milan would have such an incredible financial advantage over their rivals that no other team would have a chance of winning the Scudetto, Agnelli reportedly replied, “Maybe I’m wrong, but hasn’t that been the case for the past 80 years?”

The other club presidents were stunned by his response but Sampdoria president Massimo Ferrero sarcastically called Agnelli a “genius” and told him he deserved a round of applause.

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Cairo was furious: “How can you come here to talk about solidarity when you sabotaged the negotiation with the funds, already knowing that you were doing the Super League?”

He still hadn’t come to terms with Agnelli’s apparent duplicity when he spoke to the press afterwards. “How does one do something like that?” he asked in disbelief. “It is a betrayal. It’s Judas-like.”

Ferrero, meanwhile, was struggling to contain his emotions. “Football would not exist without the fans,” he told Radio Marte. “We must take football back. If we follow people on a power trip, we do not go anywhere. How dare they?”

“I’ve always voted against Agnelli, I’ve never followed him. What did he do in such a delicate moment [for football]? I have no words for him. If I say what I think, they will censor the show.”

Ferrero was also among those to call for sanctions. Former Italy international Antonio Cassano even went as far to argue that Juve, Inter and Milan should be thrown out of Serie A.

There is unlikely to be any action taken, though. Lega Serie A is not in a position to expel the Italian members of what Ceferin has labelled “The Dirty Dozen”.

They would have needed the support of the FIGC and/or UEFA to pull off such a move. However, neither body has, thus far, demonstrated an appetite to punish any of the Super League’s founders.

Ceferin has already welcomed the English clubs back into the UEFA family, after they pulled out of the ESL one by one on Tuesday night, and he now wants to push ahead with the Champions League revamp he unveiled the day before.

FIGC president Gabriele Gravina, meanwhile, acknowledged that while the whole affair underlined “something is not working” within football, “no forms of trials or sentences are planned. An idea that has not materialised cannot be sanctioned.”

So, the Italian clubs at the centre of this affair are set to escape punishment. Agnelli, though, is set to suffer. His reputation as a visionary leader and brilliant businessman has been irreparably damaged. 

He was the public face of the Super League enterprise and, along with Perez, one of the key protagonists behind the scenes. He has, therefore, been utterly humiliated by its collapse inside 48 hours. His very competency is now being questioned. 

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Agnelli hasn’t just lost face, though, he’s lost friends. Powerful ones. He has gone from one of the most influential figures in football, to arguably its most ostracised. 

Just this time last week, he was running an organisation which represents 246 clubs across Europe – and enjoyed an excellent relationship with Ceferin. Now, he is persona non grata in both the ECA and UEFA.

According to the Corriere dello Sport, Ceferin has spoken to the presidents and chairmen of every founding member of the ESL since Tuesday – bar Agnelli, while former ECA chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge says he presently doesn’t feel compelled to call his successor.

Agnelli has more pressing concerns, though, given he is facing calls to resign as Juventus president. That is hugely significant in itself. Firstly, the Agnelli family have owned the club since 1923. Secondly, he is responsible for rebuilding a Juventus left devastated by the fallout from Calciopoli. 

Since being elected president in 2010, Agnelli has masterminded a quite stunning rebirth. He took a club that had been relegated just four years earlier and transformed it into the most dominant domestic force Italian football had ever seen, winning nine consecutive Scudetti between 2012 and 2020. 

However, Agnelli’s ultimate goal was to turn Juve into a European superpower. He did not believe that possible through Serie A success alone.

After asking Juve’s shareholders to approve a €300m (£340m/£260m) capital increase in October, Agnelli stated, “These numbers seem enormous when compared to the Italian reality, but our point of reference is the great European clubs.

“When we look at the main clubs in Germany, England and Spain, we see that their turnover ranges from €489m (£423m/$552m) at Borussia Dortmund to almost a €1bn (£865m/$1.1bn) made this year by Barcelona. These realities must be our benchmark.

“Our current level of turnover, excluding the transfer of players, is about the level of turnover that Real Madrid had when I took over the presidency of Juventus in 2010.

“It is clear that the growth rates we have developed have been higher than those of Real Madrid but there is still a gap, which we must obviously fill.”

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Agnelli felt that the only way to fill that gap was with more European fixtures. But there were no guarantees. He hated the idea that a club could miss out on Champions League qualification because of “one bad season”.

He described the Champions League revamp as close to his “dream” model, given it is set to allocate two places to clubs with high UEFA coefficients who have failed to qualify through their domestic leagues. 

Agnelli wanted more than a safety net, though – he wanted cast-iron guarantees, so he helped form a Super League that would feature 15 permanent participants.

Of course, that meant breaking away from UEFA, and walking away from Ceferin. It was a massive gamble, and it has backfired spectacularly, and rapidly.

By the time the Corriere dello Sport and La Repubblica were releasing excerpts from an interview with Agnelli late on Tuesday night, in which Agnelli claimed the Super League founders had formed a “blood pact” and the project had a “100 per cent possibility of success”, the Premier League participants had already pulled out.

Agnelli’s humiliation was complete. He has refused to apologise, though. Tellingly, the statement Juve released on the Super League’s collapse didn’t even reference the club’s fans, some of whom had hung a banner outside their stadium reading, “Our history must not be tarnished, bartered or commercialised. We are Juventus FC. No to the Super League… shame on you!”

Agnelli remains “convinced of the beauty of the project” and he maintains that he has done nothing wrong. He even insists that he went about things in a perfectly acceptable manner. 

“If you tell me other methods for putting together such projects… if you were to ask the authorisation of others, I don’t think you would have carried out a project like this,” Agnelli told Reuters on Wednesday..

Some important figures at Juve, though, are disgusted with how this has been handled. 

As #AgnelliOut was trending on Twitter on Wednesday night, Sportmediaset were claiming that the president is now in a perilous position because he now has “many enemies at many levels” throughout football, with the Gazzetta dello Sport now suggesting that some disgruntled Serie A club owners could even attempt to sue.

Exor CEO John Elkann has reportedly been left thoroughly unimpressed by his cousin’s handling of the whole affair and there has been talk of another family member, Alessandro Nasi, replacing Agnelli at the helm.

He remains likely to hold onto the presidency but Agnelli has completely lost his grip on the European game. He’s long since turned his phone back on but nobody at UEFA or the ECA wants to talk to him anymore.

His reputation is in ruins. His coup has failed.

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Connor McDavid hits ‘impressive’ 100-point mark in Oilers’ 53rd game

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Connor McDavid hits 'impressive' 100-point mark in Oilers' 53rd game

Entering Saturday night’s “Hockey Night in Canada” showdown with the Canucks, Connor McDavid had been downplaying how important scoring 100 points this season was to him.

“It’s a number,” McDavid said when he was sitting on 93 points; he had 96 Saturday morning. “If I get there, great. If not, it’s not the end of the world, either. The most important thing is our team is gearing up for the playoffs and making sure we’re firing on all cylinders in Game 1.”

Well, while he may not have been thinking about it, the smile on his face when he notched point 100 in the second period — his fourth point (goal, three assists) of the night — told a different story. The historic moment came in the Oilers’ 53rd game of the season as he assisted on Leon Draisaitl’s game-winning power-play goal.

“Honestly, it’s just impressive,” said Draisaitl, who hit his own career milestone of 500 (and 501) NHL points in the game. “I don’t think my English is good enough to find another word for it right now, but it’s incredible. I mean, I don’t know, we’ve played 50-some games, he’s at 100 points. It’s just very impressive and just, you know, fun to be a part of.”

“I think what it does, it just solidifies he’s one of the top players to ever play the game,” said head coach Dave Tippett. “The level that he’s played at this year, and just what he’s accomplished, it’s one of those years that you look at Wayne [Gretzky] or you look at Mario [Lemiuex], it’s one of those years where he’s taken his talents to another level that is just elite for the league.”

McDavid, who has 32 goals and 68 assists, became just the ninth player in NHL history to hit the century mark in 53 games, joining the likes of Gretzky and Phil Esposito. The last players to do it were Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr with the Penguins in 1995-96. 

“It’s special to be part of a group like that, obviously. Those are the game’s best players of all time so it’s special to be mentioned in the same breath as those guys,” McDavid said postgame.

“Four-point nights aren’t something that come regularly, I think. I was just trying to come in and play a good game, play like I can,” he said later, adding that he spoke to his parents and was surprised his mom was awake to see it. “My legs felt pretty good. I was able to get on the board on the first shift, that always helps. I think after the first one, it kind of crosses your mind, and I was fortunate to feel pretty good throughout the night and a couple of great shots from my teammates.”

After the Edmonton captain hit the mark, Twitter not only praised him but was also in awe of the moment.

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Canelo Alvarez vs. Billy Joe Saunders live fight updates, results, highlights from 2021 boxing card

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Canelo Alvarez vs. Billy Joe Saunders live fight updates, results, highlights from 2021 boxing card

One fighter will get closer to the first undisputed super middleweight championship in boxing history when WBC, WBA (Super) and The Ring champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez faces off against WBO titleholder Billy Joe Saunders at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Saturday.

The massive 168-pound showdown will take place in front of a live crowd of more than 70,000, breaking the attendance record for an indoor boxing event in the United States. And who better than Alvarez, boxing’s current pound-for-pound king, to be in the main event?

Alvarez (55-1-2, 37 KOs) has pursued the undisputed championship since beating Callum Smith for the WBA (Super) and vacant WBC crown in December. He followed that performance with a third-round stoppage of mandatory challenger Avni Yildirim in February before turning right back around in hopes of collecting another title against Saunders on Saturday night.

Saunders (30-0, 14 KOs) is a two-division world champion who claimed the WBO title in May 2019 by defeating Shefat Isufi via unanimous decision. He has made two consecutive title defenses, but his opponent in Texas will be his toughest test by far.

There has been some bad blood between the two heading into the fight; Canelo promised a knockout, while Saunders aims to befuddle the Mexican superstar with his technical prowess.

Who will come out on top? Stay tuned as Sporting News will have live coverage of tonight’s fight card.

MORE: Watch Canelo vs. Saunders live on DAZN

Canelo Alvarez vs. Billy Joe Saunders live updates, highlights

Sporting News’ live coverage of Canelo-Saunders will begin at 9 p.m. ET.

Canelo vs. Saunders start time

  • Main card: 8 p.m. ET
  • Canelo-Saunders main event: 11 p.m. ET (approximate)

The Canelo Alvarez vs. Billy Joe Saunders main card launches at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday night, with the champions expected to make their ring walks at approximately 10:30 p.m. or 11 p.m. ET, depending on the length of the earlier fights.

How to watch Canelo vs. Saunders

  • Subscription: $19.99/month or $99.99/year

The Canelo vs. Saunders fight will stream live globally on DAZN, to more than 200 countries and territories, including the U.S. and Canada.

Those interested in watching the fight can find DAZN on a number of different systems, including, but not limited to, Amazon Fire TV/stick, Android, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, iPhone and iPad, Playstation 4, Playstation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and Roku. The DAZN app is also available on LG, Samsung and Vizio smart TVs, as well as Xfinity X1 and Flex.

Viewers can also find it on DAZN.com using browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari.

Click here to learn more about DAZN.

Canelo vs. Saunders fight card

  • Saul Canelo Alvarez vs. Billy Joe Saunders for the Canelo’s WBA, WBC and Ring Magazine super-middleweight titles, and Saunders’ WBO title
  • Marc Castro vs. Irving Castillo
  • Frank Sanchez vs. Nagy Aguilera
  • Edwin Soto vs. Katsunari Takayama for Soto’s WBO light-flyweight title
  • Kieron Conway vs. Souleymane Cissokho for Conway’s WBA Intercontinental super-welterweight title
  • Keyshawn Davis vs. Jose Antonia Meza
  • Kelvin Davis vs. Jan Maslaek

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Does Chelsea have the edge over Champions League final opponent Manchester City?

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Does Chelsea have the edge over Champions League final opponent Manchester City?

Match statistics: Manchester City 1-2 Chelsea

In terms of the bigger picture, there is nothing more important for Chelsea in the final weeks of the season than securing a top-four finish.

Ensuring the club will be in the Champions League next season was a must for Thomas Tuchel when he took the job in January, and after victory over Manchester City on Saturday, the Blues find themselves sitting third with three games to play.

And yet, the narrative around the last-gasp win at the Etihad Stadium will be framed around one thing: what it means for the upcoming Champions League final meeting between these two sides.

This was meant to be the day that City sealed the Premier League title, and after Raheem Sterling had opened the scoring late in the first half it seemed like the fans who had gathered outside the stadium would have something to cheer at full time.

Instead, it was Marcos Alonso’s scuffed finish two minutes into second-half stoppage time that decided the game, leaving City’s champagne on ice while sowing more seeds of doubt over whether it can take down Chelsea in Istanbul on May 29.

Of course, Pep Guardiola will not play the same lineup in Turkey as he did here. The Catalan made nine changes from the side that beat Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday, with only Ederson and Ruben Dias keeping their places.

That said, Chelsea has now beaten City twice in a matter of weeks. Time will tell just how much of a psychological impact that will have on both Guardiola and his players come the end of the month.

In that first game — the FA Cup semifinal at Wembley Stadium — it was Chelsea’s impregnable defense that led it to a much-deserved 1-0 win.

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Here, though, the Blues found themselves in the unusual position of chasing a game after falling behind to Sterling’s strike, and they really should have been 2-0 down at half time, only for Sergio Aguero’s fluffed attempt at a Panenka penalty to land in the arms of Edouard Mendy.

Given how strong it has been defensively since Tuchel took the reins, Chelsea has generally led from the front under the German coach, and though it too was without key players, the fact that the Blues turned this game around will give them huge confidence for both the remainder of the domestic campaign and their next meeting with City.

Mason Mount, Ben Chilwell and Thiago Silva were all missing from the squad following Wednesday’s win over Real Madrid, but others stepped up in their place.

Like at Wembley, Hakim Ziyech got himself on the scoresheet, this time with a long-range drive to equalize, before Alonso’s late intervention.

On the opposite flank from the Spain international, Reece James ran City ragged in the second half, while Billy Gilmour was rewarded with a huge hug from his manager at full time after a mature display from the 19-year-old midfielder in a rare start.

Timo Werner, too, troubled the City back line with his pace and willingness to run in behind, even if he does need to work on remaining onside as he saw two more goals chalked off via an assistant referee’s flag.

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Tuchel had a terrible record against Guardiola when the pair were in opposing dugouts across the Klassiker divide in Germany, but now the former has the tools within his squad to compete with the one-time Bayern Munich boss.

Certainly, it is these two teams that, on paper, have the deepest squads in the Premier League, and that Chelsea has now come out on top twice against City suggests the title race will be much closer next term.

That, though, is for the future. Right now, Chelsea remains focused on closing out the Premier League season strongly, as well as next week’s FA Cup final meeting with Leicester City.

Soon though, it will join the rest of the footballing world in turning its attention toward the showpiece event of the European season, and its third meeting with City since the start of April.

Only three months ago, Chelsea would have been a huge underdog when facing City.

Now, after two wins from two games, its potential to become Guardiola’s kryptonite is suddenly very real.

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