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Atlético’s position unclear as Super League speeds toward collapse

Conflicting reports have emerged regarding Atlético’s future in the proposed competition.

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‘Tecnologia Y Deporte’ Forum in Madrid
Miguel Ángel Gil Marín.
Photo by Samuel de Roman/Getty Images

It seems the big, bad European Super League won’t even last as long as Martín Demichelis’s Atlético Madrid stint.

Manchester City are leaving the proposed competition housing a dozen of the continent’s richest teams, and Manchester United chairman Ed Woodward has tendered his resignation. Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson led a social media revolt on Merseyside, which contributed to his club and the other Premier League participants confirming their departures from the project by Wednesday morning European time.

(Elsewhere, Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli is said to be under pressure, though claims he too has resigned are false at this hour.)

It would appear Florentino Pérez’s bizarre Monday night interview on tabloid program El Chiringuito did nothing to stem the tide of backlash his Super League idea — an idea many years in the making — engendered over the past 48 hours. In Spain, Pérez just won reelection as Real Madrid’s president and is untouchable, while Barcelona counterpart Joan Laporta has said the club’s socis must approve the Super League before he can ratify Barça’s entry.

Real Madrid v Liverpool - UEFA Champions League Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

And at Atlé’s not clear-cut as of late Tuesday night.

The club’s official channels have spoken very little of the Super League, save for a boilerplate statement posted to the official website Monday morning.

Reporters from England have indicated Atlético are planning to withdraw from the doomed Super League. But earlier Tuesday, club president Enrique Cerezo and chief executive Miguel Ángel Gil Marín spoke with the players as they prepared for Thursday’s league game against Huesca. The word from Spain is Atleti are staying in it through the night, even as the concept crumbles across Western Europe.

This is probably how Cerezo and Gil Marín want it. But to make matters murkier, it’s very unlikely either of them will directly confirm their intent, let alone change course.

Atlético’s leadership cadre is not one for grandeur or for loud statements of intent. Cerezo gives a few interviews per year and can appear blustery, but he tends to stay away from controversial subject matter. Gil Marín is well-known for operating in the background and has said he doesn’t even attend Atleti games.

Above all, there’s the small matter of the club debt — nearly €1 billion — that the club hierarchy would love to pay off. The opportunity to benefit from Pérez’s embrace of trickle-down economics, no matter how slim, is enough for said hierarchy to justify staying on until the Super League is no longer remotely tenable.

Viewed from that perspective, it’s clear to see how and why club leadership will hang onto this Super League — even if it looks like a matter of “when” it will go belly-up, not “if.” And even if 86 percent of polled Atlético supporters disapprove of the project.