The head of Italian soccer said Monday that Juventus faces expulsion from the country’s top league if it does not renounce its membership in the Super League.

“The rules are clear. If Juventus is still part of the Super League when it enters next season, it can’t participate in Serie A,” Italian Football Federation President Gabriele Gravina told a Naples radio station (via the Associated Press). “I would be sorry for the fans, but rules are rules and they apply to everyone.”

Juventus, which had its string of nine straight Serie A titles snapped this season by Inter Milan, is one of three clubs attempting to keep alive the proposed annual tournament exclusively composed of Europe’s soccer royalty. Two Spanish titans, Barcelona and Real Madrid, joined Juventus on Saturday in issuing a statement in which they described “unacceptable third-party pressures, threats, and offenses to abandon the project” as “intolerable under the rule of law.”

Twelve clubs originally announced they were forming the Super League, which they said at the time would draw in three more permanent members and invite five additional teams every year to fill out the tournament. Beyond the damage the venture would have inflicted on the Champions League, many soccer fans and even European political leaders were deeply offended by the threat the Super League posed to a tradition of promotion and relegation in which clubs have to win their way into the top rungs of the sport.

Amid an outcry that appeared to surprise Super League clubs in its intensity, nine quickly dropped out, including all six would-be entrants from the English Premier League, plus Atlético Madrid, Inter Milan and another Italian club, AC Milan. On Friday, those clubs signed an agreement with UEFA that recommitted them to abiding by the dictates of European soccer’s governing body. They also were asked to acknowledge that “the Super League project was a mistake,” to pledge to take all steps necessary to divorce themselves from the venture and to part with millions of euros in fines and charitable donations.

“These clubs recognised their mistakes quickly and have taken action to demonstrate their contrition and future commitment to European football,” UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin said Friday in a statement. “The same cannot be said for the clubs that remain involved in the so-called ‘Super League’ and UEFA will deal with those clubs subsequently.”

The next day saw Juventus, Barcelona and Real Madrid strike a defiant tone in declaring it would be “highly irresponsible” if they “abandoned such mission to provide effective and sustainable answers to the existential questions that threaten the football industry.”

“Given that the material issues that led the 12 founding clubs to announce the Super League weeks ago have not gone away,” the three clubs said, “we reiterate that … we have the duty to act in a responsible manner and persevere in the pursuit of adequate solutions, despite the unacceptable and ongoing pressures and threats received from UEFA.”

Juventus then was throttled by AC Milan, 3-0, on Sunday for a loss that left it fifth in Serie A, one spot short of eligibility for the next Champions League tournament. Juventus has three games left to leapfrog the competition, but it lacks tiebreaker advantages and could find itself wishing a club of its stature didn’t need to go through a qualifying process — a luxury the Super League would have ensured.

Compounding the concerns for Juventus are reports that its resident superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo, might want to leave the Turin-based club if it does not qualify for the Champions League. Ronaldo, 36, holds a number of tournament records, including most final wins, most goals and longest scoring streak. If Juventus does not play in Serie A next season, it could be faced with missing the Champions League for two straight years and losing out on lucrative payouts that help finance contracts for the likes of Ronaldo.

“We are all a bit tired of this tug-of-war between UEFA and these three clubs,” Gravina said Monday (via the BBC). “I hope this dispute can be resolved as soon as possible.”

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