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Saturday, 15 May 2021 10:50 GMT

Qatar- Al-Khelaifi hailed for rescuing European football


(MENAFN - Gulf Times) The Qatari's opposition to the European Super League has made him a Uefa darling     The changing of the guard occurred in the blink of an eye. As the Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin strode towards the lectern to deliver his keynote address at the organisation's annual congress last Tuesday morning, Nasser al-Khelaifi turned in his seat to look at him.
Catching the Paris Saint-Germain president's eye, Ceferin winked. It was a moment that captured the affection that exists between the two men and one that prefigured the new power structure that would emerge from the wreckage of one of the most explosive weeks in the history of European football.
The beginning of the Uefa summit in the Swiss ski resort of Montreux had been overshadowed by the announcement that 12 of Europe's grandest clubs were planning to break away from the game's existing structures to form a new European Super League.
But as the congress wound down, large cracks in the project had already started to appear and by the time Uefa's delegates had returned to their homes across the continent, the whole enterprise was in tatters. By deciding to abstain from the new competition, along with Bayern Munich, PSG helped to ensure that it never got off the ground.
Al-Khelaifi was rewarded for his role in the resistance by being elected president of the newly emboldened European Club Association (ECA), the body that represents Europe's professional clubs, now shorn of the 12 would-be Super League founders.
Ceferin said that the 47-year-old Qatari had shown himself to be 'a great man. Long perceived as a threat to the European football establishment due to their vast wealth and huge transfer spending, PSG have emerged from the Super League crisis as unlikely defenders of the game's fundamental values.
In his adopted homeland, praise for Al-Khelaifi was universal. Vincent Labrune, president of the Ligue de Football Professionnel, which runs France's professional leagues, thanked the PSG boss 'in the name of French football. National newspaper 'Le Figaroasked', asked a little playfully, if it was time to start calling him 'the Robin Hood of European football.
Even straight-talking Lyons president Jean-Michel Aulas, who has had plenty of run-ins with his PSG counterpart over the years, could not hide his admiration. 'There was a time when I was irritated by the way PSG went about things and the means at their disposal, Aulas told 'L'Équipe'. 'But from the moment that Nasser was resisting (the Super League) more than anyone else, it showed that we had to follow the line of Uefa and PSG.
Al-Khelaifi attended last week's Uefa congress in his role as one of the ECA representatives on the organisation's executive committee.
Approached by reporters as he left the summit, he would only say: 'I'm here to stand with the people who love football. A source close to him says that he feels a genuine attachment to Uefa and was concerned about the potential implications of the Super League for the wider game.
On the Sunday when news of the Super League's mooted creation, the PSG president was shown a video of Gary Neville's impassioned denouncement of the project on Sky Sports and is said to have been profoundly moved by it.
From a wider strategic perspective, cosying up to Uefa tallies with goals that PSG have been pursuing. PSG have long lived in the menacing shadow of Uefa's Financial Fair Play regulations. They were hit with a €60mn fine and Champions League squad restrictions in May 2014 and only avoided further scrutiny of their finances in March 2019 because the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that Uefa had waited too long before re-opening a 2017 investigation into the blockbuster signings of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.
There was also a feeling that getting Uefa on side would prevent PSG from being penalised by what they considered unfair refereeing, such as in the club's calamitous Champions League elimination by Barcelona at the Nou Camp in March 2017. Courtesy: The Times    

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