Florentino Perez has never been a man to shy away from controversy.
The notorious 74-year-old Real Madrid president is the mastermind behind the European Super League plans which have shocked the world over the past few days.
And during his interview on the Spanish programme El Chiringuito on Monday, Perez characteristically did not shy away from discussing his almost dystopian vision of football in the future, with a number of claims that certainly raised eyebrows.
But what is the history of this ever-divisive figure, and how did he rise to where he is today?
Here is everything you need to know about the chairman of the tournament which could change football forever…
Who is Perez?
After working as a politician and a businessman for various companies, Perez first became Madrid president in July 2000, beating the man in charge at the time Lorenzo Sanz after highlighting the financial and mismanagement issues that were blighting the club.
Perez was responsible for the golden era of Galacticos at Madrid, and was key in bringing in the likes of Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo, David Beckham and Michael Owen.
An era of great success followed, while Perez was also instrumental in improving the Bernabeu and growing Madrid as a global brand off the pitch.
He was re-elected in 2004 but resigned just two years later amid a poor few years, admitting that the club needed a new direction.
In 2009 he was back, however, and was re-elected after he was the only candidate capable of providing the £50million or so required to run for the presidency.
Since then there have been periods of mainly highs and few lows, with the club winning four Champions League titles and three La Ligas and continuing to splash the cash on some of the biggest players in the world at the time, such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez.
Perez was re-elected as president for a sixth term until 2025 after facing no opposition just days before news of the Super League broke.
When did he first mention a Super League?
It is no secret that Perez has harboured desires for the creation of a European Super League in some format for many years.
As far back as 2009 he criticised the Champions League, saying: “We have to agree a new European Super League which guarantees that the best always play the best – something that does not happen in the Champions League.”
He also threatened at that point to push for a break-away competition featuring only Europe’s biggest names.
There have been numerous rumours, comments and speculation over such a thing happening ever since then, with Perez continuing to state his desire for a new competition at any available opportunity.
Only now, however, does it look to be genuinely becoming a reality.
Why does he want a Super League?
Put simply – money.
For all Perez’s half-hearted attempts to suggest he wants to do it for the ‘greater good’ of the footballing world, the timing of the announcement as Madrid’s finances are in a perilous situation amid the pandemic is telling.
His club have lost a staggering £344m due to the impact of coronavirus, and the prospect of a share of the £3bn grant financed by investment bank JP Morgan to make the tournament happen has clearly seen Perez’s eyes light up.
With Madrid arguably the biggest club in the world, Perez will defend his actions by claiming he is merely trying to do what is right for them and increase profits as much as he can.
The majority of others simply see his masterplan as a cynical, greedy ploy to make the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
What did he say on Monday?
While the owners of the other 11 Super League clubs have been conspicuous in their silence so far, Perez (who has been confirmed as the chairman of the Super League) appeared on Spanish TV on the popular football show El Chiringuito on Monday evening to have his say.
And he certainly didn’t hold back, making a number of comments that have been debated, discussed and downright rubbished.
On the argument that the Super League will financially ruin smaller clubs, he said: “The attractive thing in football is playing between big clubs, the value for television increases and more income is generated. It’s not just the rich who want the Super League, we’re doing it to save football because it’s at a critical moment.
“It will become like a pyramid because we big clubs will have more money and we will be able to invest it by buying players.
“If the big clubs lose their money as is happening, the whole football system crashes as with the Champions League.”
And perhaps most controversially he argued that young people are losing interest in football, adding: “If young people say football matches are too long, maybe it’s because that match isn’t too interesting or maybe we have to shorten the length of matches.”
His claims have been met with widespread condemnation, with some even arguing his performance was so full of contradictions and nonsensical opinions that he has inadvertently weakened his position.
The mind of Perez
One thing is for sure – Perez has never been worried about upsetting people.
He proved that by almost immediately signing Figo for Madrid from bitter rivals Barcelona when he was first made president in what was one of the most inflammatory transfers of all time.
He is obsessed with money, yet has put hardly any of his own personal funds into Madrid despite being worth around an eye-watering £2bn.
Indeed, it is thought he only pays the £130 members fee that supporters also cough up to become a ‘socio’ at the club.
Yet despite being far from everyone’s cup of tea, his power and influence cannot be underestimated, and generally he is a man who eventually gets what he wants.
So what now?
In this ever-changing story, it has become clear that it is almost impossible to predict what the next development will be.
Right now everything appears to hang in the balance, and it would only take one or two clubs walking away for the whole plan to collapse like a deck of cards.
But even if it does, Perez’s ultimate dream of the ‘elite’ teams playing each other more regularly looks to be drawing ever-closer.
And he may be remembered as the key figure who changed the football landscape forever.