As one of the most erudite manages in the English and European game, Nuno Espirito Santo is a man worth listening to. Speaking candidly on topics involving, sport, culture, politics, and finance with equal ease, he is a coach who creates worthwhile press conferences. Part of that stems from the fact that the Portuguese has never held back when it comes to making worthwhile comments. Indeed, he has spoken at length on topics as varied as ‘Brexit’ – the British exit from the European Union – to the COVID-19 situation and even football finance. However, he has never hid behind platitudes or neutral positions.
When asked about the likelihood of another pause in football, though, the Wolverhampton Wanderers coach offered an intriguing response. He believes that the Premier League in particular would be at risk of a European Super League forming.
Also, he noted that the biggest clubs would likely use the opportunity of a second shutdown to make the often-discussed reality of a European Super League come into existence. With massive rises in the number of COVID-19 tests and games being postponed at an alarming rate, though, a second shutdown might not be too far away.
“If we stop, everything will change”
Indeed, this comes after comments from the shadow sports minister, Alison McGovern, who said that it is “increasingly difficult” to keep elite sport running as it stands. However, despite no plans to make change from those in government, the Football Association has had to write further letters of warning to clubs after a growing lack of adherence to protocol.
Nuno, then, was asked about the chance of a second break in the season, as happened in 2019-20, and the consequences of such a move. As an advocate of football to continue, he was asked why, and provided a typically illuminating answer, saying: “If we stop everything will change.
“A new football will come, probably with a Super League, probably with other competitions. It’ll be a matter of which clubs will survive. It’s a tough decision to make. I don’t know what is better. What I’m afraid of is, if the decision is to stop, football we know now will not be the same. This is my biggest fear. The schedule will go crazy and it’ll be impossible to finish the league and think about the Euros.
“We cannot move forward and go back to a normal situation. The virus and pandemic is affecting things a lot, the increase of cases is growing in a scary way. This is what my main concern is. Things have changed – almost a year ago we were stopping because we didn’t know what was happening. It was something we hadn’t experienced. There were a lot of doubts.
“After the restart everyone made a big effort. There were protocols, meetings, things exchanged, we were sure no matter what we were playing because we only needed 14 players. Now things have changed and we are starting to think about stopping again. If you have a crisis the strong will survive – what about the rest? My personal view, when I have an awareness of what’s going around, you will not find the same model we have now.”
While not plans are in place to introduce a stop, a break in play akin to what happened across Europe in 2020 could certainly open the doors to the issues and the worries that Nuno has discussed.