LEEDS, England (AP) — Liverpool and Leeds players spoke out against the formation of a Super League after the teams drew 1-1 in the English Premier League on Monday.
Leeds defender Diego Llorente’s 87th-minute header denied Liverpool a place in the top four, which might not even matter given the club is one of the 12 behind the creation of a controversial breakaway league that is threatening to split the historic structure of European soccer.
The Super League could be launched as early as next season, rendering meaningless the race for Champions League qualification that currently involves Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham — three of the six rebel English clubs.
James Milner, Liverpool’s captain for the game, became the first player from one of the so-called founding clubs to criticize plans for the Super League.
“I don’t like it and hopefully it doesn’t happen,” Milner said.
Leeds striker Patrick Bamford said players were “in shock” at the developments.
“From what I have seen, I haven’t seen one football fan who is happy about the decision, and football is ultimately about the fans,” Bamford said. “Without the fans, football is pretty much nothing and it is important we stand our ground and show football is for the fans and try to keep it that way.”
Liverpool stayed in sixth place, outside the Champions League places, after Llorente’s goal earned Leeds a point the team’s second-half fightback might have deserved.
Sadio Mane stroked the ball into an empty net in the 31st minute from a squared pass from Trent Alexander-Arnold to give Liverpool the lead and put the deposed champion on course for a fourth straight victory.
A win would have lifted Liverpool above West Ham and into fourth place.
Liverpool came in for lots of criticism ahead of the game — from its own fans and those of rival clubs — for being greedy and damaging the integrity of the English and wider game because of its role in the Super League plans. The club’s American ownership bore the brunt of the criticism but the players were jeered and verbally abused as they arrived at Elland Road.
“That felt a bit unjust,” Milner said.
Leeds’ players wore T-shirts during the warmup, which had the words “Earn it” on the front and “Football is for the fans” on the back — seemingly a message to the rebel clubs.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said in 2019 he was against the formation of a Super League and reiterated that opinion ahead of the game against Leeds.
In his post-match news conference, Klopp said the latest developments would not make him quit as manager and he “will try to help to sort it somehow.”
“I’m here as a football coach and a manager,” Klopp said. “I will do that as long as people let me do that. I heard today I will resign or whatever. If the times get even tougher, that makes me more sticky that I stay here.
“I feel responsible for the team, I feel responsible for the club, I feel responsible for the relationship we have with our fans, and that is why it’s a very tough time, I’m sure.”
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