Jurgen Klopp is determined to remain Liverpool boss and “help sort it” after reiterating his opposition to the European Super League.
The Reds are one of 12 clubs to agree to join the breakaway competition.
In 2019 Klopp said he hoped there would never be a Super League and before the 1-1 Premier League draw with Leeds he confirmed his opinion had not changed.
“I heard I will resign. If times get tough it makes me even more sticky that I will stay,” he said after the game.
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Reds vice-captain James Milner was even more critical of the new tournament – which has threatened to cause a schism in football.
“I don’t like it one bit and hopefully it doesn’t happen,” he told BBC Sport.
“It [the current system] has worked well for a long time. What has made it special, what we have done over the last few years, is we have earned the right to win the Champions League and the Premier League. The product we have currently is very good.
“It is difficult. Coming into the game today Leeds fans were making their feelings shown. As players we don’t really have a say so it feels a bit unjust.”
Former England captain Alan Shearer said it was unfair for Klopp to have to address the ESL and end up in an awkward situation.
“He doesn’t want what his owners want and that is a really powerful voice,” Shearer told BBC Breakfast.
“Where are these owners? Why don’t they come out and tell us why they want a closed shop that no-one else can get into?”
Leeds players wore T-shirts saying ‘Earn it’ next to the Champions League logo and ‘Football is for the fans’ and left the shirts in Liverpool’s dressing room in case they wanted to join the protest. That angered Klopp.
“We were not involved in the process,” he said after the game. “We are the team, we wear the shirts with pride. Somebody has made a decision with the owners in world football that we don’t know exactly why.
“We are here, we are the face of the club and arrived here and Leeds fans shouted at us as though we made the decision but we didn’t.
“Gary Neville was talking about ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. This already should be forbidden. It’s our anthem. We have the right to sing our anthem. He doesn’t understand it anyway so I don’t want this because it’s not fair.
“I don’t like this [Super League] either, but I don’t talk about the other clubs…
“I wish Gary Neville would be in a hot seat somewhere and not where the most money is.
“He was at Manchester United where the most money was and now he’s at Sky where the most money is. Don’t forget that we have nothing to do with this. We are in the same situation like you all. We got the information yesterday and we still have to play football.
“‘Damn them to hell?’ Did he write that today? These things are really not OK.”
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Neville responded by arguing that he and Klopp were actually in agreement, but defended his own comments.
“I’ve handed out enough insults over the years to Liverpool, but yesterday was nothing to do with insulting Liverpool,” he said. “I don’t know why I’m living in his head. I don’t know what’s spiked him.
“Yesterday was an impassioned plea from me about protecting football in this country.
“My biggest disappointment was with Manchester United and Liverpool. I think I’ve equally distributed enough criticism to both clubs in the last 24 hours so I don’t know what the problem is.”
Fans of several clubs protested outside Elland Road – including burning a Liverpool shirt – while Reds fans displayed banners opposing the move at Anfield.
A plane flew over Leeds’ ground saying ‘No to Super League’.
Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin has said clubs and players involved with the ESL could be banned “as soon as possible” from all Uefa competitions – and the World Cup.
Klopp told BBC Radio 5 Live: “If you thought, what could make the year worse? All that happened, the pandemic, all the injuries, other stuff and then that came up. Another challenge… but we’ll get through somehow.”
Prince William, the Football Association president, was among those to voice their opposition to the plan.
Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa was also critical of the Super League proposal.
“It shouldn’t surprise us,” he told the BBC. “In all walks of life the powerful look after their own and don’t worry about the rest of us.
“The big teams are also created due to the opposition of the other teams. In the search for higher economic earnings they forget about the rest. The powerful are more rich and the weak are poorer. It doesn’t do good to football in general.”
Bielsa’s striker Patrick Bamford also said “it is wrong”.
“Playing in a league you can’t get relegated or promoted… it is not football,” he said.
Fulham chairman Shahid Khan said via the club website: “The concept will not serve the game or our most important stakeholders – the generations of football fans here in England and throughout Europe who have been as loyal to their domestic leagues, and the opportunities they offer, as they are faithful to their favourite team.”
PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor said the Super League idea had been mooted for some time but was “the last thing the game needs”.
“It is a little bit of a ticking time bomb that we have,” Taylor told BBC Sport. “You have renegade members who run riot. That causes a massive problem for the vast majority of clubs or you look to try and control it.
“It is a real test for Uefa, Fifa and our Football Association and also it is something you need to be able to win over, because we are an entertainment industry, the players are important as are the fans and you can’t just have a cavalier attitude and ignore it, or it will come back and bite you.”
European Super League – Key developments so far
- A dozen clubs – including Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham – agree to form a new midweek competition
- European Super League will feature 20 clubs in all and run alongside domestic leagues such as the Premier League
- Founding clubs are being enticed with a share of a €3.5bn (£3bn) grant provided by the investment bank JP Morgan
- UK government says it is prepared “to put everything on the table to prevent this from happening”
- France’s president, Uefa, the Premier League, Europe’s major leagues, players’ unions and former players all strongly criticise the move
- Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says he does not agree with the move and that the club’s players were not consulted
- A YouGov poll of 1,730 football fans found 79% opposed the idea of a Super League
- The 14 Premier League clubs not involved in the ESL move will meet on Tuesday
- Fans air frustrations on social media and some visit grounds to unfurl banners in protest
Reaction – ‘They’re killing the game’
Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher said on Sky Sports he felt the ESL move may collapse if one Premier League club can be convinced to withdraw, while ex-Manchester United defender Neville said he wants football to unite in the fight against the concept.
“We ain’t stopping,” said Neville.
“If they get this through, it will change football in this country forever. We have to mobilise, organise. Everyone has to be behind this. Forget allegiances, this is an attack on everything that has been important in this country and they are trying to take it away from us.”
Carragher said: “The owners, these are the people to blame for it. They are burning the history of what these clubs are about. The only reason Liverpool have a chance of being in this is because of all the European titles in their history. They have only won once with FSG.
“I think these clubs think it is a done deal. I don’t think it is, I think supporters can stop this. We have tribalism and rivalry but football fans get together, all of us, to stop this and it can be stopped – I am convinced. This can not be allowed to happen.”
Sky say they were not involved in the discussions.
Former Manchester City defender Micah Richards told BBC Radio 5 Live that despite holding a position as an ambassador at the club “the first word that came to me was disgrace”.
“From where Manchester City have come from, from Division Two [what is now League One] all the way to the Premier League and they earned that the right way through hard work, great support and not doing things the easy way and went all the way to winning the Premier League.
“Now, having the audacity to believe they should be better than everyone else – I was flabbergasted.”
Ex-Arsenal striker Ian Wright said he could not believe his former club was one of those involved in the ESL move. “This is the same Arsenal that only a couple of weeks ago was commended for the tribute to David Rocastle,” Wright said in a video on Twitter.
“God, the man would be turning in his grave knowing what is going on now. Is this how far we have fallen?
“That we are getting into competitions because we are not good enough to get into them, so at the detriment of the English game we are getting a seat at the table we have no right to be at.”
Former Blackburn and Chelsea striker Chris Sutton added on 5 Live: “It’s deeply unfair for the players at Liverpool and on Jurgen Klopp as a manager and all the other clubs.
“The owners have made their beds and have to come out and explain and front up to the fans and they have not done that – it’s shocking. This is going to turn very ugly.
“These clubs have an obligation to their country. I love the league format, if clubs leave the English league it will kill the game as a spectacle.
“The Champions League will be watered down. It’s going to be a Champions League B competition. What will happen to the Merseyside derby? Liverpool have just crushed Everton. They’re killing the game.”
Former England captain David Beckham posted on Instagram that football was “nothing without the fans” and that the game should be “for everyone” and competitions “based on merit”.