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A Long Read from The Guardian


I feel like I’m selling my soul’: inside the crisis at Juventus


A series of financial scandals have rocked Italy’s most glamorous club. But is the trouble at Juventus symptomatic of a deeper rot in world football?

by Tobias Jones


Tue 25 Apr 2023 06.00 BST


juventas-illustration comp 1 recrop





On 20 January this year, the Italian football association shocked fans throughout the world by docking 15 points from its most iconic club, Juventus, in the middle of the season. Juventus suddenly dropped seven places in the Serie A table. The club was accused of falsely inflating the value of players in transfer dealings and, in a separate case, of lying to shareholders. The Italian football association (FIGC) accused Juventus of “repeated violations of the principle of truth”.

In a country renowned for provincialism, Juventus is a uniquely national team. Based in the northern city of Turin, it has about 8 million supporters, far more than its nearest rivals Milan and Inter. But in the wake of repeated scandals, the club has also become a symbol for the downfall of Italian football.


At the centre of the club’s current crisis were a series of suspicious transfer deals. In 2021, the regulatory body overseeing Italian football had raised concerns with the FIGC about 62 player transfers between clubs in Italy and abroad; 42 of those involved Juventus. The club is accused of having relied on a system whereby two clubs swapped players for exactly the same amount and magically improved their balance sheets – without actually spending or banking any money. The value of the players being exchanged was allegedly inflated by both sides of the deal to show “plusvalenze” or capital gains (the profit on the sale of an asset).

The points deduction, which Juventus immediately challenged, was just the latest crisis to hit the club. Two months earlier, the entire board of directors, including the chairman, Andrea Agnelli, and the former player Pavel Nedvěd, had resigned because criminal charges were pending. There are now two on-going cases involving Juventus: one overseen by the sporting magistrature regarding capital gains, the other a criminal case in which Juventus is accused of false accounting, market manipulation, obstructing inspectors and fraudulent financial statements.

Meanwhile, a wider challenge looms. In 2022, Juventus’s revenues slumped 8%, while its operating costs increased 7.6%. In the past five years, the club has asked shareholders for cash injections of €700m (£619m) to cover losses of €612.9m. “It’s as if there’s been a sinkhole,” Giovanni Cobolli Gigli – chair of Juventus between 2006 and 2009 – told me. “There has been this continuous chasing of revenues when what they should have been doing was limiting the disproportionate and senseless costs.”


The plusvalenze scandal didn’t involve Juventus alone. The €70m transfer from Lille to Napoli of Victor Osimhen, the star of this season’s Serie A, is also mired in controversy: the four minor Napoli players traded for Osimhen are alleged to have been massively overvalued at €19.8m in order to offset the cost. Yet while Juventus wasn’t the only club moving players around like chess pieces merely for accounting purposes, the allegations, if proven, would show that the club took the practice to new levels. One Juventus executive, recorded by investigators looking into the club’s murky finances, said: “I feel as if I’m selling my soul.”


In the 1980s and 90s, Serie A was the richest and most glamorous league in the world, where players received the best salaries and fans enjoyed the best football. Now it has become the poor relation of the other major European leagues, with many clubs sinking into the quicksand of debt. According to the latest report from the FIGC, the accumulated debts of Italian football currently stand at €5.3bn.

In mid-April, Juventus’s 15 point deduction was rescinded, pending a retrial, and the club sprang back up the table to third place. But that judgment only added to the sense that Serie A is a creaking product, with the position of the league’s most famous club dependent on legal, not sporting, results. The Juventus scandals are a window into not just the wider crises in Italian football, but the rot at the heart of the sport.

To Italians, Juventus has long evoked both aristocratic glamour and a reputation for chicanery. It was founded in 1897 by a group of rich kids from Turin who gave the club its fancy Latin name (meaning “youth”) and a kit that featured pink shirts with black bow ties. It was seen as the team of the upper classes, whereas the workers tended to support the city’s other club, Torino. This image was sealed when Juventus was acquired in 1923 by Giovanni Agnelli, a businessman who had made a fortune through armaments, aviation, shipping, ball-bearings, textiles, cement, steel and retail stores. (By then, Juventus had swapped its pink shirts for its iconic vertical black-and-white stripes: there were links between the textile industries of Nottingham and Turin, and when players wrote to order a new kit from England, they received the Notts County strip with black and white stripes.)


For the past century, the story of Juventus has also been the story of the Agnellis. They have often been described as the Italian version of the Kennedy clan: a royal family within a republic whose name evokes mystique and tragedy. Edoardo Agnelli, who Giovanni had installed as Juve chair, was killed in a plane accident in 1935; his wife – mother to his seven children – died in a car crash in 1945. One of the couple’s sons died in a psychiatric unit in 1965; a grandchild died of cancer aged 33, another killed himself in 2000.

There was romance and success, too. Gianni Agnelli, Giovanni’s grandson, became Juventus chairman in 1947; he was described by Vanity Fair as the “godfather of style” and an “international playboy” who hung out with Prince Rainier of Monaco, Errol Flynn and Rita Hayworth. He also had an affair with Winston Churchill’s daughter-in-law Pamela. The family’s company, Fiat, dominated the industrial landscape of postwar Italy, and those who supported Juventus felt they were touched by that cosmopolitan Agnelli gold dust. It wasn’t just the team of the bosses, but of those who aspired to be like them.


Andrea Agnelli at the Allianz Stadium in 2021.

Andrea Agnelli at the Allianz Stadium in 2021. Photograph: Massimo Pinca/Reuters


To its detractors, the club’s unofficial motto sums up its dubious mentality: “Winning is not important; it’s the only thing that matters.” The slogan was coined by Giampiero Boniperti, a former Juve player who went on to become chairman. Between 1946 and 1961, Boniperti scored 178 goals for Juventus but, because of the Italy-wide cap on salaries, his pay packet didn’t reflect his true value. To circumvent the regulations, Gianni Agnelli offered to give Boniperti, the son of farmers, a cow for every goal he scored. One day, the farmer who sold the cows to Agnelli phoned him to complain: Boniperti always chose a cow that was in calf. Typical Juventus.


There have been many other crises and scandals. In 2004, the club doctor was found guilty of having supplied performance-enhancing drugs to players during the late 1990s, years in which the club was spectacularly successful (the conviction was overturned on appeal).


In 2006, it was revealed that Juventus was the ringleader in a system of influencing referees that involved several top teams (a scandal known as Calciopoli). The club was duly relegated to Serie B.


Ten years later, the suicide of the club’s supporter liaison officer, Ciccio Bucci, led to an investigation that revealed Juventus had been supplying tickets to hardcore fans, or ultras, despite their links to organised crime.


Italy is divided between those who see Juventus as arch-cheaters and those who believe the club is always singled out by resentful and biased magistrates. As Herbie Sykes writes in his book, Juve!: “Italian football is essentially binary, so there’s a Juventus version and an anti-Juventus version.” The debate was precisely summarised by an exchange I overheard in a bar in January, on the day the points deduction was announced.

“It wasn’t only Juventus,” said a fan, referring to the plusvalenze scandal.

“No,” his friend replied. “But it is always Juventus.”


After the Calciopoli scandal in 2006, Juventus fought their way back to Serie A. In May 2010, Andrea Agnelli, grandson of Edoardo, became chairman and he slowly took the club back to the summit of Italian football. Key to the club’s resurgence was Agnelli’s decision to hire Beppe Marotta as CEO and sporting director. Marotta arrived from stints at smaller Serie A clubs, where he’d gained a reputation for brilliance in the transfer market and in managing the interpersonal dressing room dynamics on which successful squads are built. Soon afterwards, Antonio Conte became manager and under his guidance, followed by that of Max Allegri, sporting triumphs ensued. Starting in the 2011-12 season, Juventus won Serie A nine times in a row.


Agnelli appeared even more successful on the financial side. A new stadium had been opened in 2011, with naming rights sold for €75m before construction had even begun, in 2008. (In 2017, naming rights were sold again to the German finance giant Allianz.) Agnelli believed that the club could bring in fresh sources of revenue if it reinvented itself as a lifestyle brand, whose signature would be the letter J. Near the stadium, the club built the J-Museum, the J-Medical and began further developments under the J-Village Property Fund, which oversaw a J-Hotel, the J-TC, a training centre, and so on. In 2012, Jeep became the club’s most important sponsor. In 2017, the club unveiled a distinctive new logo: two black lines on a white background forming a stylised J. During those heady years, supermarkets, school playgrounds and sports centres were full of J-slippers, J-backpacks and J-shorts.


Agnelli was also a rising political power in European football. In 2017, he became president of the European Club Association, an organisation representing 234 member-clubs across the continent. Among other things, the ECA was in constant negotiation with Uefa, the governing body of football in Europe, to wring out more cash for clubs involved in the Champions League. As Agnelli talked with his Uefa counterpart, the Slovenian Aleksander Čeferin, the two developed a friendship. They became so close that Agnelli asked Čeferin to be godfather at his daughter’s baptism in the Vatican.


But in the summer of 2018 Agnelli made a decision that would have catastrophic consequences for the finances of his club. In April, Juventus had lost at home to Real Madrid in the Champions League. Cristiano Ronaldo had scored two goals, one an overhead kick so gravity-defying it was applauded by the entire stadium. Juve had reached the Champions League final in 2015 and 2017, and Agnelli was fixated on winning it. He decided the only way was to bring Ronaldo to Juventus. He convinced himself that investing €116m to buy Ronaldo made both sporting and financial sense. Marotta, the man responsible for the club’s transfer policy, fiercely disagreed. He was wary of wages getting out of control and feared Ronaldo’s domineering personality would upset the dynamic in the changing room. Agnelli got his way. In July 2018, Ronaldo arrived at Juventus and, a few months later, Marotta left.


Agnelli gives Cristiano Ronaldo a T-shirt in December 2020 for the 750 goals of his playing career.

Agnelli gives Cristiano Ronaldo a T-shirt in December 2020 for the 750 goals of his playing career. Photograph: Daniele Badolato/Juventus FC/Getty Images


Ronaldo’s time at Juventus wasn’t unsuccessful: he scored 101 goals in 134 appearances, winning Serie A twice. But the Champions League remained elusive, and the financial effect on the club was devastating. “It was a huge error,” Cobolli Gigli told me. “An example of a system being drugged by money in order to chase sporting results, which are always subject to chance.”

“That was the sliding doors moment,” says an executive of an Italian football club who asked to remain anonymous. “There was an inflationary effect on wages.”

Ronaldo’s gross salary cost Juventus €54.24m a year, a sum that surpassed the entire wage bill of many smaller Serie A clubs where players earn €1m-2m a year. The effect was exactly as Marotta had predicted. According to a report by Deloitte, the percentage of Juve’s revenue spent on wages shot up from 66% in 2018 to 84% in 2022. Another estimate, from the influential football-and-finance site Swiss Ramble, suggests that, by different calculations, that ratio is now as high as 92%.


“The biggest problem in football finances,” says Roger Mitchell, founding CEO of the Scottish Professional Football League and now a sports-brand consultant based in Italy, “isn’t the top line, it’s the cost line, the player-wages line. And 92% is at least 20% higher than where it should be.”

With revenues bound to fluctuate according to results and qualification for lucrative competitions like the Champions League, such a high wage bill was an obvious hostage to fortune. And when the pandemic arrived, Juventus was especially vulnerable.


“The pandemic was a tragedy for everyone,” Alessio Secco, a former Juventus sporting director, told me. “But for those who had toyed a little with fate, it created enormous difficulties. The knots,” he said, using a phrase that implies chickens coming home to roost, “came to the comb.”

In November 2018, Marotta’s protege had taken over as the club’s sporting director. Fabio Paratici had been an itinerant player in the lower leagues, starting out in the Piacenza youth team and eventually playing for 12 different clubs. He was a man who had endured adversity. In 1994, he suffered career-threatening injuries in a car crash but he recovered and continued to play for another decade.

But it was only after his playing career ended that Paratici’s football career took off. His luck turned in 2004, when he was appointed by Marotta to be head scout at Sampdoria. Surrounding himself with dozens of TVs that showed games from around the world, Paratici built a youth team that won “the triple” in the 2007-08 season: the youth-team Scudetto, the Italian Cup and the Supercup. In 2010, he moved to Juventus with Marotta, and when his mentor left in 2018, Paratici was the obvious successor. “He was very charismatic,” a Juventus insider told me, “very sociable. He was a fun guy, smiling all the time. You could tell he enjoyed the high life, being part of the glitterati, surrounded by beautiful women.”


The good times came to an end in the spring of 2020, when Covid struck. Between 9 March 2020 and 20 June there were no matches in Serie A, meaning no matchday revenue through ticket sales. Even worse from a financial point of view, broadcasters began demanding renegotiations, or rebates, on TV deals. With Juventus’s wages now devouring so much of the club’s dwindling revenue, Paratici asked players to take a pay cut. On 28 March 2020, Juventus formally announced that its playing staff had renounced four months of wages, implying a saving for the publicly quoted company of around €90m. But before the announcement was made, the club and its captain, Giorgio Chiellini, secretly signed an agreement whereby the club promised to pay in full three of those four months at a future date. In a bilingual message to the players’ WhatsApp chat, Chiellini explained this smoke-and-mirrors trick to his peers: “Juventus will make a press release where it will say that we are waiving four months’ salary to help the club, I reiterate to communicate only this in the press … For stock market legislative reasons … you’re asked not to speak in interviews about the details of this [private] agreement.”


Now that Covid had created a hole in the Juventus accounts, Paratici began systematically using player exchanges to increase the revenues of the company without actually receiving any money, an accounting technique called plusvalenze incrociate (exchanged or crossed capital gains). The system worked because, as with modern art, it’s notoriously difficult to put an accurate figure on the value of a football player. If two clubs could agree to sell to each other players that were officially, on the balance sheet, worth €1m for 10 times that amount (for €10m), each could record a capital gain of €9m, and add to their books a new asset reportedly worth €10m. It might have been questionable, but it wasn’t illegal: who was to say that a young player hadn’t increased in value ten-fold? After all, the market undervalues emerging players all the time.


Plusvalenze was not new – it had been a common practice throughout Italian football prior to Covid. In his book Il Calcio del Futuro (The Football of the Future), Carlo Diana, a former Juventus marketing manager, writes of Italian football being “close to declaring bankruptcy”, and describes how the industry “has been sustaining itself for years thanks only to plusvalenze”. The pressure to disguise losses through inflated capital gains seemed to have come from the very top: in an email to Paratici, and other colleagues, on 22 February 2020, Andrea Agnelli urged his staff to “contain losses” through “corrective actions”.


But after the Covid crisis, Paratici began incessantly swapping players with other clubs for allegedly inflated amounts. In the transfer window of the summer of 2020, the Bosnian midfielder Miralem Pjanić moved from Juventus to Barcelona for €60m, while the Brazilian midfielder Arthur Melo moved the other way for €72m. Both figures seemed to hugely overestimate the players’ value. These kinds of deals, of which there were many more, seemed to be win-win. As Paratici said in a wire-tapped phone call to the director general of Pisa in September 2021: “If all goes well, there will be loads of money for everyone.” The practice had become so embedded that, in wiretapped conversations, Juventus directors began asking their auditors advice about how to supercazzolare (befuddle) inspectors at the national Italian stock-exchange.


The transfers often seemed to have nothing to do with football. In some cases, Juventus are accused of having decided the value of capital gains required and only then chosen which player suited the sum. In the words of the FIGC’s initial judgment, Juventus “systematically planned the realisation of capital gains regardless of the identity of the subject to be exchanged, often indicated with a simple ‘X’ in place of the name of the Juventus player to be sold”. The judgment also recorded surprise that almost everyone at the club appears to have known about the practice.


In May 2021, the public prosecutor in Turin opened a secret investigation – known as Prisma – into the club’s finances. The investigation discovered that Juventus had undisclosed debts to various clubs, players and agents. One club executive admitted to investigators: “There’s €7m in debt with Atalanta that has never been entered in the balance sheet.” One agent was owed €400,000. The club’s debts to players who were owed months of salary became a form of “credit bondage” whereby the money owed could be used as an incentive to stay, with unpaid salaries being rewritten as a “loyalty bonus”. A secret document was unearthed in which Paratici, in July 2021, had written an IOU to Ronaldo for a figure believed to be €19.9m for another round of secretive salary payments during the 2020-21 season.

In response to a list of questions put to Juventus for this article, the club said that it would not be possible to interview Agnelli, and sent over links to its press releases on these matters. In a press release dated 12 April 2023, Juventus announced that “the company believes that it has correctly applied the relevant international accounting standards and that it has acted in full compliance with the principle of fair play”.


By 2021, it was clear that Juventus was struggling to keep afloat. For years the club had enjoyed cheap credit as interest rates were near zero, but as inflation and borrowing costs rose, the debt-ridden club found itself in ever-greater difficulty. There was, thought Agnelli, a quick fix: if Juventus and other European so-called super-clubs could create a “super league”, revenue might not only increase but actually be guaranteed. Instead of the exciting jeopardy of Champions League qualification, in a putative European Super League the 12 founding members – including six from England: Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea – would never be knocked out. With a €3.5bn loan from JP Morgan to be shared among the clubs, the plan would have instantly blown away Juve’s cashflow problems.


News of the Super League broke in April 2021 and it quickly became a PR disaster for Agnelli, Juventus and just about everyone else involved. The secrecy of the plan made it seem sneaky, and the closed-shop nature of competition, albeit with six additional places up for grabs each year, made the clubs appear arrogant. “When you’re making change in sport,” says Roger Mitchell, “the trick is humility. You need to say you respect the past and so on. But with the Super League, the comms were horrible.”


Since the proposed Super League would have ended outright Uefa’s iconic competition, the Champions League, it was a direct assault on Uefa – and Čeferin felt personally wounded by his friend’s betrayal. In a hastily arranged press conference in April 2021, Čeferin denounced the “disgraceful, self-serving proposal” and talked about the clubs’ “greed, selfishness and narcissism”. He compared Agnelli to a “snake” and, later, a “vampire”.


The very public spat between Uefa and the Super League became a personal battle between their respective figureheads, Čeferin and Agnelli. The former had been brought up in humble surroundings in Slovenia. A lean strategist, Čeferin easily out-manoeuvred Agnelli, playing the part of the common man to perfection. “We will not allow them to take football away from us,” he said, encouraging fan protests across the continent. By contrast, Agnelli appeared privileged and elitist. “He looked like a trust-fund baby,” says Mitchell.


Within days of its midnight launch, the Super League brand had become toxic. Wavering clubs – Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich – backed Uefa, and the English clubs began hastily withdrawing and apologising to their fans. For years Agnelli had exuded an aura of patrician professionalism, but now he appeared incompetent. A spray-painted picture of him stabbing and deflating a football in Rome was widely shared on social media: to his critics, he was the man who wanted to kill the sport.


A mural seen in Rome around the time of Juve’s links with the European Super League, depicting Agnelli stabbing a football.

A mural seen in Rome around the time of Juve’s links with the European Super League, depicting Agnelli stabbing a football. Photograph: Andrew Medichini/AP


For those who had worked at Juventus, the Super League fiasco was no surprise. According to various sources who spoke to me on condition of anonymity, the workplace was always dysfunctional. “Agnelli thinks he’s a visionary,” one former executive told me, “but he’s a sociopath. A complete control freak.”


With the prospect of Super League cash gone, Agnelli was desperately trying to find ways to generate income. In September 2021, he hosted a power-lunch for the bosses of the FIGC, Serie A and of various other clubs in an attempt to persuade them to create a media company to handle the broadcast rights for Serie A. “I hope something emerges from this,” he confided to the director general of Atalanta after the meeting, in a wiretapped conversation, “otherwise I don’t know what to do … we’re slowly going to crash.” Shortly afterwards, the club was forced to return to shareholders for a recapitalisation: having already sought a cash injection of €298m in December 2019, in December 2021 they raised a further €400m from shareholders.


There was also increasing disquiet within the club about plusvalenze. One executive was recorded by investigators saying: “I swear, I’ve had evenings in which I go home and I feel sick just thinking about it.” The practice of buying and selling players purely for bookkeeping reasons was taking its toll on the team, too. The team’s manager, Max Allegri, was furious at the incessant churn: “Last year’s transfers were only about plusvalenze, and so it was a fucked-up market,” he complained in a wiretapped conversation.


“With Fabio [Paratici] there’s no reasoning,” one executive said to a colleague in another recording. “For as long as Marotta was there he could put brakes on him, but once he left, Fabio had carte blanche. He could wake up in the morning and sign €20m without anyone saying anything.” Paratici, who declined to be interviewed for this article, eventually left Juventus in May 2021.


In the immediate aftermath of Agnelli’s resignation last November, Juventus announced that it had revised its accounts, admitting that it had underestimated losses for the 2020-21 year by €21m, bringing its official losses to €226.8m. “The financial statements of Juventus,” the FIGC wrote in its ruling against the club in January, “are simply not reliable.”


Agnelli was banned from involvement in Italian football for two years; Paratici, the man at the centre of the scandal, was banned for two and a half. Fifa, the governing body of global football, has since extended that ban worldwide. (After losing his appeal earlier this month, Paratici resigned from his role as managing director of football at Tottenham Hotspur, the club he joined in summer 2021.) Juventus has announced that the company “trusts it will be in a position to demonstrate the correctness of its conduct” at the plusvalenze retrial, which will take place at the end of May.


There is no possibility that Juventus will go bust: 63.8% of its shares are held by the financial giant Exor, which is owned by the Agnelli family and which enjoyed a net income in 2022 of €6.2bn. But the crisis is likely to become even more acute in the coming months. The next hearing into the criminal case will take place on 10 May and Uefa might also intervene, with powers to impose transfer embargos, financial penalties or even exclusion from Uefa competitions.


Those who defend Juventus point out that it is subject to far more scrutiny, not just because it is the country’s most famous club but because, as one of only two publicly listed companies in Serie A (the other being Lazio), it is subject to different rules and increased scrutiny. “It’s a real encumbrance to have to work in a publicly traded club,” said Secco. “All the other football clubs that are not publicly listed companies have a greater freedom of action, and a big advantage, compared to those that are.” Most observers feel it’s inevitable that Juventus will be delisted in coming months to avoid such restrictions and burdens; but buying out all other shareholders is likely to be an extremely expensive operation for Exor.


In February, Juventus supporters complaining of bias were given extra ammunition when footage emerged from 2019 in which Ciro Santoriello, who would go on to become one of the Prisma investigators, joked about being a Napoli fan who “hates Juventus”.

“If the system wants to bring down a protagonist it can always create a scandal,” Carlo Diana, the former Juventus marketing manager, told me wearily.


Juventus’s club crest outside its stadium.

Juventus’s club crest outside its stadium. Photograph: Massimo Pinca/Reuters


Many Juventus insiders believe that, although he came up with the wrong answers, Andrea Agnelli was actually asking the right question: how can Italian football increase revenue to make it competitive once more? Juve’s crisis lays bare the financial predicament in which most Italian football clubs now find themselves. There’s a vicious circle of low investment, which makes it hard to attract or retain the very best players, which makes it impossible to sell media rights at top rates, which means there is low investment, and on and on.

“The product just looks awful,” says Mitchell. “The stadiums are dreadful, the empty stands look horrible, the football is two gears slower than in Spain or England.”

A law that limits the sale of broadcast rights to short-term deals means that investors have no incentive to nurture the long-term development of the product.


The collapse of TV rights sales has brought many Italian clubs to the brink of bankruptcy. In the 2021-24 cycle, the foreign rights to Serie A were sold for $658m (£529m) compared with (in the 2022-25 period) the Premier League’s $6.55bn or (for the 2018-24 period) La Liga’s €4.48bn. With current income from foreign media rights now so low, Serie A clubs are exploring selling a share of future revenues to investors.

In June 2022, Barcelona, another club caught up in the spending arms race and now €1.1bn in debt, sold 25% of the club’s TV rights until 2047 to an investment firm.


Football finance experts are aghast at the prospect, likening the move to taking out a second mortgage. “It’s always jam today, pay tomorrow,” says Mitchell. Like many others, he uses the language of addiction to describe clubs’ desperate search for cash. “These deals,” he wrote recently on his consultancy business’s website, “are like giving a junkie 10 bags of cash with the request that they go and get a hot meal. You know what is really going to happen.”

Rather than investing in infrastructure, the money will go on players and agents in the never-ending quest for sporting success.


Secco, the former Juventus sporting director, points to subtle, almost anthropological reasons for the current crisis: “Football in Italy,” he says, “has always been a party, something that allowed you to escape the conditions of your life. Football was outside all the stipulations for other activities, it was never given to accounting rigour. It wasn’t even a business. Deals are still done in a hotel or a restaurant, and that’s part of the conviviality that is in Italians’ nature.” Until very recently, football teams in Italy were consciously un-businesslike: they were loss-making clubs subsidised by a local entrepreneur or, in Juventus’s case, a global one.

The Juventus crisis illustrates the fraught and evolving relationship between sport and finance. It was once a point of principle that all sport was amateur, “more Corinthian than capitalist”, as Mitchell says.


Precisely what made sport appealing – its ludic scorn for worldly concerns, its relishing of risk and uncertainty and underdog surprises – rendered it unappealing to investors who demand predictable returns. The traditional European model – embodied by the Agnellis – was patrician largesse: when winning championships was “the only thing that matters”, no one cared how much money they lost. The most generous interpretation of Andrea Agnelli’s downfall is that, despite his best efforts, he remained an amateur in a sport that is now peopled by pros. A less generous one is that, like a profligate aristocrat, he never learned to cut his coat according to his cloth, and when he realised the scale of the problem he faced, his solutions only led his club further into the mire.



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I would have thought over-inflating transfer fees was more common place than Juventus & serieA

A club from Glasgow’s east end springs to mind.

Does anyone really think Brentford paid £17.5m for Ajer?

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