Leicester's Claudio Ranieri: Clubs to blame if they don't make UCL
Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri says the Premier League's big clubs "should blame themselves'' if they fail to qualify for the Champions League amid speculation surrounding a breakaway European Super League.
Representatives from five established powers of the English game -- Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United -- met with the chairman of American company Relevent Sports Charlie Stillitano in London on Tuesday.
The meeting was primarily about the preseason International Champions Cup (ICC) competition which is staged in the United States and Asia and organised by Relevent Sports, and the clubs have denied that any discussions took place regarding a European Super League.
However, when asked if a Super League was still on the agenda, Stillitano told radio station Sirius XM on Thursday: ''I think it is. They're talking about it all over Europe. At least a change in format.
''When they came up with the Champions League, the idea wasn't to have PSV and Genk playing in the knock-out stage. What would Manchester United argue: did we create soccer or did Leicester create [it]?
"Let's call it the money pot created by soccer and the fandom around the world. Who has had more of an integral role, Manchester United or Leicester? It's a wonderful, wonderful story -- but you could see it from Manchester United's point of view, too.''
Leicester and Tottenham currently occupy the first two of the four Champions League places available for next season, with United and Liverpool currently outside the Premier League's top four.
Asked about this week's events, Ranieri said on Friday: "This is sport, no? I understand they want to do something, but if something strange happens, they shouldn't blame the little teams, they should blame themselves.
"[Talk surrounding a Super League] is speculation. They are trying to do something, but I think people must think about what fans want, not only about money, because the culture and the fans are more important than other things.
"I think they wouldn't start [a Super League] next season, but then something could happen. Maybe next time [Relevent] will have to also call our sporting director!''
Chelsea interim boss Guus Hiddink appeared to support Ranieri in suggesting qualification for Europe's elite competition should be based on sporting success rather than financial might.
"I think we must all be careful to go into exclusivity when teams like this year surprisingly Leicester is mixing in,'' he said. "They have the full right to be where they are now and are a good contender for the next Champions League this year.''
Asked if the top clubs were scared by the success of Leicester, Hiddink added: "I hope so. Why not? That's real sport. We must not forget what it's all about in sport.''
United boss Louis van Gaal, meanwhile, claims he has never been a supporter of plans to form an elite league made up of Europe's biggest clubs.
The former Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Ajax manager even suggested the Champions League should revert back to its old format when only domestic league winners were invited to take part.
The Champions League first allowed the runners-up of eight domestic leagues to participate in the 1997-98 season, when Van Gaal was in charge at Barcelona.
"Everybody knows, when you follow my career, that I am against all the super leagues and something like that," he said. "Sport is to be the best and also when the Champions League was [expanding], I said it was rubbish because now the second, third and fourth team is also playing.
"It has to be between champions in my opinion. I said that 20 years ago and I say it now again. I think sport is to win, not to be second or third."