Spanish Football Federation president Luis Rubiales says the domestic Supercup between Barcelona and Sevilla is most likely to be played on August 12 as a one-off fixture and not a two-legged affair as in the past.
La Liga and Copa del Rey champions Barcelona will take on Sevilla, the cup runners-up, in the Spanish Supercup, the traditional curtain raiser to the season. Sevilla finished seventh in La Liga and will be involved in the Europa League qualifying phases in August.
“I’ve spoken to FC Barcelona and to Sevilla in recent days and they have transmitted to me that considering the tight calendar, they were both prepared to play the Supercup as a one-off fixture,” Rubiales told Cadena Ser radio.
“But we have a TV contract signed in which the Supercup was going to be a two-legged tie and we have to find a way to compensate them. If we succeed to reach an agreement with TV, then the Spanish Supercup is most likely to be played on Aug. 12 at a neutral ground in a one-off fixture as an exceptional measure. From next season, we will revert to the two-legged system.”
Rubiales also spoke about Spain’s World Cup and praised all of his players, including goalkeeper David De Gea. The Manchester United goalkeeper has received criticism for his performances in Russia. Spain have given away five goals from six shots in the group stages and there are calls for Spain coach Fernando Hierro to bring in Kepa Arrizabalaga in place of De Gea.
However, Rubiales said: “De Gea’s issue is a sporting one and it’s not for me to talk about that. All I can say is that we are very lucky to have the three goalkeepers that we have. We are very proud of all of our players. I would give them a 10 out of 10. There’s no need to back the players as they know fully well what they are playing for. We have to be positive.”
Spain take on hosts Russia in Sunday’s round of 16 showdown in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium and Rubiales is optimistic.
“Our aim? The only thing that I want is to be proud of my national team,” he said. “We just have to go step by step. The players are doing a good job and our hopes remain intact, which is the most important thing. The fact that Germany have gone out of the competition shows that there is no small team and that it’s not easy to advance.”
Rubiales refused to comment on whether Hierro will continue at the helm of the national team after the World Cup.
Hierro replaced Julen Lopetegui, who was sacked three days before the start of the tournament in Russia. “It’s an issue of the (RFEF’s) executive committee as has always been the case,” Rubiales said. “Fernando is very focused on the next game and doesn’t want to talk about this right now. We have a crucial game against a top rival.
“Fernando’s concentration is only on this. We have to be prepared for every challenge and the players are fully focused on the game against Russia.”
Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s connection with Leicester ran deeper than miracle Premier League title
Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha bought Leicester in 2010. Plumb Images/Leicester City FC via Getty Images
Senior Writer, ESPN FC
Such is the tribal nature of sport that the owner of any team will guarantee instant popularity and affection from the club’s supporters if his or her backing leads to success on the field, but Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s connection to the fans of Leicester City ran deeper than that.
That is why his tragic death in Saturday’s helicopter crash outside the King Power Stadium will be mourned so greatly by the football community, in Leicester and beyond.
Many foreign owners in the Premier League are criticised for being aloof and distant, unconcerned by the feelings and demands of their club’s supporters. Some of them watch from afar, rarely, if ever, watching their team in action. But Srivaddhanaprabha was not only a regular at the King Power, attending virtually every home game, but he also connected to the supporters and the team’s players in a unique way.
In April 2016, with the team on course for its remarkable Premier League title triumph, Leicester fans were treated to a free beer and donut — children were given a bottle of water — to mark his birthday at the home game against Southampton.
Two years earlier, after the team won promotion back to the Premier League from the Championship, Srivaddhanaprabha rewarded the playing squad with caviar and vintage wine at an exclusive London restaurant.
“The owners look after us,” club captain Wes Morgan said at the time. Robert Huth, the former Chelsea defender, said the regime was different from anything he had experienced in the game: “I have never had so much help from a club.”
A devout Buddhist, Srivaddhanaprabha once gave each Leicester player a Buddhist charm, and they were blessed by Thai monk Phra Prommangkalachan and his team. Srivaddhanaprabha gave prayer space to them next to the referees’ dressing room at the King Power.
“It takes a couple of minutes, and if it means they’ve done as much as they think they can to help the team win, then so be it,” midfielder Andy King said. “We enjoy doing it. The club has gone from strength to strength since Vichai has taken over, and we always trust his judgement.”
Srivaddhanaprabha prayed with monks before every match he attended — since day one. Even if they weren’t always present at the King Power, they would pray from a Chinese temple in Bangkok.
The monks at the King Power, who had that specific room, usually came in a party of 10. They blessed the pitch in preseason before the 2015-16 Premier League-winning campaign and came to every home game from Christmas onwards and blessed the players. They also prayed constantly during the match, for the full 90 minutes.
A monk poses at the Golden Buddha Temple, Bangkok. Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha would invite monks over to watch and pray at Leicester matches. Ben Jacobs / ESPN
After winning the title in 2016, Leicester’s players returned to the King Power at the start of the following season to be greeted by 19 blue BMW sports cars, worth £100,000 each, as gifts from Srivaddhanaprabha — known inside the club by his respectful title of Khun Vichai — for their parts in the title success.
The 61-year-old was an astute businessman, ranked the fifth-richest person in Thailand by Forbes Magazine, having made his £2.5 billion fortune as the founder of the duty-free consortium King Power International.
He bought an executive box at Chelsea — the team he and his son, Aiyawatt “Top” Srivaddhanaprabha, supported in Thailand — before he completed a £39 million takeover of Leicester, then in the second tier, in 2010.
Srivaddhanaprabha first watched the Foxes play when they beat Middlesbrough to win the 1997 League Cup, and he claimed he “fell in love with Leicester” because “the colours were the same as my company’s” and also because buying a Premier League club “wouldn’t be challenging enough.”
Srivaddhanaprabha was a keen polo player — elephant polo in particular. It was after a tournament near Bangkok in 2009 that he decided to buy the club. He watched late 1-0 win against Middlesbrough but still felt aggrieved the team the team Leicester beat to win the League Cup in ’97 had outclassed them for large parts of the game. He saw it as a sign to pursue their interest. The following summer, he owned the club.