AS Manchester City chief Ferran Soriano walked into the Premier League lions’ den on Thursday, he might have been excused for wondering if the Super League would provide a warmer welcome.
After all, the breakaway scheme is being plotted from Madrid and Barcelona.
And Soriano, along with Pep Guardiola and director of football Txiki Beguiristain, will always have part of his heart in Catalonia.
If the Premier League does carry through the demand of some clubs and send City spinning through the relegation trapdoor over the alleged 115 rule breaches, the grass might look greener.
Certainly, there was little sympathy for City’s plight from the other club chiefs who gathered around the conference table in a swanky central London hotel on Thursday.
Greetings were perfunctory at best, with the City situation the ghost that was floating around at the back of every mind, even if it was not even mentioned during the four-hour club “strategy” meeting.
But even what the Football Supporters Association slammed as a “walking corpse with all the self-awareness of a zombie” has, for now, shut the door in City’s face.
Real and Barca, through their unofficial Madrid-based marketing arm A22, have portrayed the Premier League as European football’s enemy within.
It is, they claimed in their presentations, a voracious beast hoovering up most of the available cash and, in terms of dominating the transfer market, “a train that has left the station”.
But even if a new train can be put onto the rails, City, it seems, would not be welcome to hop on board.
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Not, that is, unless the Premier League and its clubs can be persuaded to back the rebooted concept.
A22 say they are unable to provide a concrete plan – given the way the initial one went down the pan two years ago, that makes sense – but “10 principles” for the future.
They include “meritocratic” competitions – qualifying on merit – with the final decisions made by the clubs involved rather than Uefa.
A22 added: “Clubs also need greater stability and predictability in annual revenues so they can make sensible, long-term commitments to player and infrastructure expenditures.
“Substantial improvements in the format and attractiveness of the current European competitions would generate additional resources.”
Key among them, though, is “strict financial sustainability rules” and an acceptance that domestic leagues are fundamental to European club football and that there must be “harmonious” relationships, not conflict.
In other words, if City are relegated from the Prem, then they will not have any European opt-out offer on the table – because British teams will NOT be invited.
A22 chief Bernd Reichart said he envisaged a “sustainable sporting project for European club competitions available to, at a minimum, all 27 EU Member States”.
That, of course, does not include the UK, sparking complaints from Prem clubs that the plotters want to boot English clubs out of the Euro big-time.
Not that Soriano was made to feel particularly comfortable on home soil on Thursday.
Soriano, accompanied by an aide, was the first club chief to arrive at the Churchill Regency Hotel off Oxford Street around 11.15am.
Having found the Prem’s meeting room empty, he retreated to the lounge and an animated conversation eventually, but briefly, disrupted by Manchester United opposite number Richard Arnold.
The pair shook hands and exchanged smiles before Arnold moved on, with Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish the next club executive to engage with the City chief.
Two more did stop for a handshake but as the remainder of the club bosses gathered in small groups, one involving Parish, Arsenal’s Vinai Venkatesham and Brighton’s Paul Barber, Soriano upped sticks and left for more than half an hour.
When he returned, Arnold had been joined by Chelsea owner Todd Boehly, Newcastle’s Amanda Staveley and Christian Purslow of Aston Villa.
Soriano stalked past, briefing waving at the table as he did so.
Not exactly a warm embrace of pals showing empathy for his plight, with one club chief admitting there was no fellow feeling and that many of them believed this was a day long coming.
That acrimony did not surface in the talks about the future of the Premier League.
But neither did anybody bend over backwards to show understanding. You reap, it seems, what you sow.
Another club boss said: “Ferran isn’t exactly a mixer. But I don’t think anybody really wanted to say too much to him.
“It’s in the hands of the Commission now, not us.”