LONDON • Claudio Ranieri has suggested that any club which agrees to join football's mooted European Super League would expose itself as cowardly rather than powerful.
"You are afraid, you are not strong," Leicester City's manager said of English teams who would form a breakaway league reserved for the traditional elite.
Executives from Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool held talks in London this week with Charlie Stillitano, chairman of Relevent Sports, an American company interested in exploring the idea of setting up a Europe-wide league reserved for the continent's richest clubs.
The American indicated that such a league would not need to include Leicester, who have done better than the "big five" in the Premier League this season, nor several other clubs currently above one or more of the five aristocrats.
Ranieri feels that although a breakaway may be in the financial interests of the big clubs, it would be against the spirit of sport and a case of big-name clubs punishing smaller ones for their own failings.
"All the fans want sport to be very clear, for there to be respect for everybody," he said. "I understand the bigger teams want to be sure to get money and don't want to lose one year without the Champions League but this is sport. You have to deserve the Champions League.
"For one year you don't achieve this, you want to make something different? I think it's not right. You are afraid, you are not strong. You are afraid to lose money. It's not good for the sport because after, what happens?
"There are four or five teams from each country, and the rest, what do they do? People must think what the fans want, not only about money because culture and fans are more important."
The Italian suggested that rather than plot a breakaway when faced with stronger competition, traditional powers should reflect harder on how to rise to new challenges.
"That's sport," he said. "I understand they want to do something but, if something strange happens, don't blame the little teams. They have to blame themselves. Maybe they have a good idea but they should ask, 'Why is a little team like Leicester doing better than us?'"
THE GUARDIAN, THE TIMES, LONDON