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FIFA declares war on European Super League with World Cup ban threat as conflict escalates

Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo (L) is challenged by Barcelona talisman Lionel Messi during their Champions League clash in Barcelona, Spain, December 8, 2020. /CFP

Three months ago, Josep Maria Bartomeu, arguably the most disliked president in Barcelona's history, suddenly announced his resignation and dropped another bombshell by revealing that his final act as the chief was to ratify the Spanish giants' participation in a "European Super League."

The breakaway tournament, which might potentially replace the current Champions League, would see 18 elite European teams compete in a single league with the top sides taking part in a playoff to determine an overall winner. Barcelona were the first major club to confirm their involvement.

Barca's bold action immediately incurred the wrath of La Liga president Javier Tebas, who described plans for such a showpiece as "weak and imaginary" and declared it would bring ruin to clubs.

According to The Times of London, Real Madrid, Liverpool and AC Milan are also involved in such plans, while the New York Times revealed that the Glazer family, Manchester United's American owner, are actively "promoting the idea of a Super League."

The sport's world governing body FIFA could no longer afford to stand idly by and watch the plan gain more momentum.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino put his name to Thursday's statement that rejects the European Super League. /CFP

On Thursday night, FIFA issued a strong-worded statement, making it clear that the European Super League "would not be recognized by either FIFA or the respective confederation" while players would risk being banned from the World Cup and other major tournaments if involved.

"Any club or player involved in such a competition would as a consequence not be allowed to participate in any competition organized by FIFA or their respective confederation. Participation in global and continental competitions should always be won on the pitch," read the statement, signed by FIFA President Gianni Infantino along with the heads of all six continental confederations including European football's governing body UEFA.

FIFA's furious reaction could have been prompted by the latest development that concrete proposals for a European super league are being discussed by top clubs with more seriousness due to the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Later in the day, the European Commission threw its weight behind FIFA, with vice-president Margaritis Schinas saying on "There is no scope for the few to distort the universal and diverse nature of European football. The European way of life is not compatible with European football being reserved for the rich and the powerful."

Documents seen by The Times claim that American finance giant JP Morgan was planning to bankroll the planned European Super League, with clubs being offered up to 350 million euros ($425.9 million) each to join the competition.

Sergio Aguero has been self-isolating due to being in close contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus. /CFP

Meanwhile, Manchester City's record goalscorer Sergio Aguero has announced that he has tested positive for coronavirus after being identified as a close contact of another confirmed case.

"After a close contact, I've been self-isolating and the latest test I took was positive for COVID-19. I had some symptoms and I'm following doctor's orders for recovery. Take care, everyone!" The Argentinian strike said on Twitter.

It represented another setback for Aguero, who has missed a huge chunk of the current campaign after undergoing knee surgery in June last year.