Juventus: Self destruction is the name of the game

A FEW years ago, it looked as though Juventus could do no wrong; they reached two UEFA Champions League finals in 2015 and 2017, won nine consecutive Serie A titles between 2012 and 2020, and four Coppa Italias in the same timeframe. They had a strong, all-star team, were able to buy who they fancied in Italy and then, in 2018, they signed Cristiano Ronaldo. Juventus had become the only Italian team that could look Europe’s elite in the eyes. Furthermore, they were an influential figure in European football, largely because of the efforts of their former chairman, Andrea Agnelli.

The past couple of years have been difficult for Juve and their title was won by Inter Milan in 2021 and AC Milan in 2022. Their performances in Europe have not been good and they have lost large sums of money, so much so that they had to seek fresh liquidity from their shareholders. The pandemic hasn’t helped at all, but Juventus look like a club that has been living beyond its means for too long. To make matters worse, the CR7 era did not deliver the hoped-for benefits. It was an expensive, flawed folly.

Juventus have been docked 15 points by the Italian Football Federation (FIGC), which has sent the team rolling down the Serie A table and negatively impacted their share price on the stock market. Nobody knows yet the precise reason, but Juventus have been under scrutiny for months over salary payments, unrealistic valuations around player swaps and misuse of capital gains. It’s complex and Juventus are not the only Italian club whose finances don’t look right, but the systemic role the club has in Italy means they are likely to be punished ruthlessly, despite the claims of victimisation by their fans. Agnelli, who left the club in 2022, has already been banned for two years after Juve were found guilty of false accounting, market manipulation and filing misleading financial statements.

Of the 62 transfers being investigated, Juventus are involved in 42. Juve have spent over € 800 million on Serie A and B players over the past 23 years. If 15 points seems harsh – the prosecutors only asked for nine – Juventus could be in for a worse penalty when the trial over “hidden salaries” paid to players at the height of the pandemic  gets underway.

Over the last two seasons, Juventus have made pre-tax losses totalling € 460 million. The club’s wage bill is high, totalling € 352 million (85% of income) and has gone up by almost € 100 million in five years. At the same time, Juve’s UEFA Champions League performances have declined; in 2022-23, they exited at the group stage and in the previous three seasons, they were beaten in the round of 16. This has obviously affected their revenues.

Juventus have not had a good season in 2022-23, although they looked as though they had found their mojo again in recent months. This setback is bad news for the club, but it also casts fresh doubts over the future of their coach, Max Allegri who has been under pressure for most of the campaign. On January 13, Juventus were thrashed 5-1 by leaders Napoli, underlining that the balance of power is shifting south in Italy.

While the outcome is still unclear and Juventus will appeal against the punishments they have received, the Turin club have suffered a blow to their reputation just 17 years after they were relegated to Serie B due to another scandal. It appears to happen all too often and in this age of corporatized football, there’s really no excuse. And if UEFA are smart, they will capitalise on this situation to deliver a shattering blow to any hopes anyone has of a European Super League.

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