News of the 12-team breakaway competition turned the football world on its head Monday morning, with the biggest football clubs in the world accused of unadulterated greed after it was revealed the founding clubs would receive a one-time payment of $5.43 billion (AUD), Foxsports reported.
The man at the centre of the plot is Andrea Agnelli, the president of Italian giants Juventus and now a vice-chairman of the breakaway competition that just dropped a bombshell on world football.
According to Foxsports, he did it by 'knifing' the godfather of his own daughter in the back.
The 45-year-old powerbroker is a member of the famed Agnelli industrialist family who founded FIAT, invested in Ferrari, and are worth $US13.5 billion, according to reports earlier this year.
From 2012 until today, Agnelli was the President of the European Club Association (ECA), a body formed to represent the interests of 246 sides, not just the bottom line of its giants.
From 2015 until today he was also a member of UEFA's board, the chief organisation for European football (that's right, an entire continent's governing body).
Today, Agnelli has turned his back on the clubs to take up the position of vice-chairman of the Super League.
For the hundreds of clubs that will be left out of the new competition, the appointment must have felt like a slap in the face.
For close friend Aleksander Ceferin, it was an utter betrayal.
Whispers turned into reality
On Friday the ECA met amid murmurs of a breakaway league. Agnelli, as President was naturally in attendance.
Two days later an emergency ECA meeting was called. Something needed to be done to halt the separatist plot.
All the rebellious clubs linked to the new league were invited. None even bothered to attend.
But they weren't the only conspicuous absentee: Agnelli was also nowhere to be found.
Hours later, a joint statement was released by those mutinous giants. The Super League suddenly went from rumour to reality.
The ECA, which Agnelli had represented so proudly for six years, bitterly hit out at the news.
"In light of today's reports on the subject of a so-called breakaway league, the ECA as the body representing 246 leading clubs across Europe, reiterates its stated commitment to working on developing the UEFA Club Competitions (UCCs) model with UEFA for the cycle beginning 2024 and that a 'closed super league model' to which media articles refer would be strongly opposed by the ECA," a statement read.
In the Super League's joint statement, Agnelli was confirmed as the breakaway competition's new vice president. The betrayal was complete.
A KNIFE IN THE BACK
Thoughts immediately turned to Agnelli's close friend and president of UEFA Ceferin, one of the most powerful figures in world football.
Since Ceferin's election as UEFA's chieftain in 2016 — in large part due to his support of smaller European leagues and their clubs — Agnelli has been in close step.
The friendship has consistently raised eyebrows and only intensified when Ceferin accepted Agnelli's request for the Slovakian lawyer to be godfather to the Italian's six-month-old daughter two years ago.
Was Agnelli using his friendship to influence Ceferin in his pursuit of more money for Juventus and other giants?
In 2019, New York Times correspondent Tariq Panja wrote: "He [Ceferin] says that he has heard the stories about how Agnelli arranged for Ceferin to take a spin in a Ferrari (Ceferin said that he has never sat in one); about the private jet trips on the Italian's plane (they have never even flown commercial together, Ceferin said); and even the whispers about the motivation behind Agnelli's decision to choose Ceferin to be the godfather to his six-month old daughter (Ceferin called it an "honour," one that transcended soccer)."
The rumours of Agnelli using their friendship to influence UEFA policy never stopped – though Ceferin did his best to silence them.
"Those rumours in football that are shared all the time are so illogical, and so stupid," he told the New York Times. "One day it is Agnelli is important, and he can influence everything because of my personal friendship with him. Next day P.S.G. is, because they are buying our rights. Then the third day we help only Real Madrid, and that's why they were four times in the final."
Tariq Panja, the author of that NY Times article, today tweeted: "To think that not so long ago Agnelli sought to create a friendship with the UEFA president, who with this move, he has effectively knifed."
A DOOMED PLEA FOR UNITY
The pair have long danced a delicate waltz of competing visions for European football's future.
Agnelli had for the better part of a decade pushed for radical change through his influential role in the ECA and in UEFA.
The UEFA Champions League was broken, he argued. The biggest clubs were missing out on billions in revenue as they faced minnows from around the continent, instead of frequently playing the heavyweights. Football was missing a huge opportunity to grow the game.
Players were stuck with: "too many games that are not competitive, both at a domestic and international level," Agnelli bemoaned last month.
Ceferin, meanwhile, wanted reform – not revolution – of the Champions League. An announcement on expanding the competition was due as early as tomorrow.
Despite his desire for change, Agnelli sided with Ceferin when a leaked document revealed secret discussions between the biggest clubs over a breakaway competition in 2018.
Ceferin got immediately on the front foot.
"The Super League will not happen," he told BBC Sport. "It is in a way a fiction now or a dream."
His close friend Agnelli followed suit: "I can confirm we have never seen, never discussed, never been involved in the creation of this document. We are fully engaged with Uefa in shaping the game going forward."
Ceferin added: "We want to show that our vision of the future of football is, let's say, similar.
"It's not completely the same. We [Uefa and the ECA] have some disagreements from time to time, but we firmly believe in the European sports model together.
"We think that European football can go further only if we stay together, unified. If you want to develop football you have to stay together."
With this morning's seismic announcement that delicate balance has been torn apart, and no doubt a friendship with it.
If the Super League goes ahead, it will be a huge blow to not only UEFA, given it stands in direct competition to that body's flagship Champions League, but also Ceferin's reign.
The fight between Agnelli's vision and Ceferin's has not been won – not yet. But the Italian billionaire has firmly place a knife into the back of his good friend.