Juventus 2021-22 loss is staggering, but things could actually be worse

JUVENTUS have not had the best start to 2022-23 and already some people are calling for the head of coach Max Allegri. After a decade of dominating Italian football, Juve now have stiff competition in Serie A and in the past two seasons, Inter Milan and AC Milan have won the scudetto. Moreover, Juve haven’t been quite the same club since the Cristiano Ronaldo years.

The pandemic exposed some of the shortcomings of Italian football’s business model and Juve have suffered more than most. In 2020-21, they made a loss of over € 200 million and in 2021-22, the deficit widened to a net loss of € 254.3 million, the highest ever in Italian football history. They have now made a loss for five successive years.

It’s a very worrying situation, but Juve’s finances would have been even more challenging if they hadn’t completed a capital raising exercise in December 2021 that generated close to € 400 million. While this strengthened Juve’s equity, it was the second such exercise in a three-year period, following € 300 million raised in 2019.

In 2021-22, Juve’s revenues fell by 7.8% to € 443.4 million, largely due to under-performance in Serie A and the UEFA Champions League. After the complete collapse of income from ticket sales in 2020-21, Juve’s matchday revenues recovered to € 32.3 million, but around half the peak year of 2018-19. Broadcasting earnings dropped by 28% to € 170.5 million, a reflection of the club’s decline on the pitch since the highs of 2017 when TV income was over £ 234 million.

Juventus last five seasons

 Revenues €mPre-tax loss €mWages €mWage- income ratio
2021-22443.4252.535179%
2020-21480.720832367%
2019-205738228450%
2018-196212732853%
2017-185051025951%

Commercially, Juve’s income was also down, from € 206 million to € 199 million. And yet, Juve’s wage bill went up by 9% to £ 351 million, representing a wage-to-income of 79%, seven percentage points higher than 2020-21. More positively, Juve have cut their net debt to € 153 million and have cash liquidity of around € 70 million. Of their gross debt (€ 223 million), € 176 million is owed to bondholders and € 6 million to banks.

The club has proposed a three-year plan for the years 2022-23 to 2024-25, which includes strategic and operating initiatives to maintain sporting competitiveness, economic and financial balance as well as improved operations and brand development. Interestingly, it also highlights the intention to take an active role in the reform and evolution process of the sporting industry. Juve’s ambition is to go shoulder-to-shoulder with Europe’s top clubs such as Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Manchester City. The club was among those advocating the creation of a European Super League in 2021, a proposal that appears to have been aborted for now. However, the club’s chairman, Andrea Agnelli, was among the most enthusiastic supporters of this controversial project, so if global economic conditions worsen, it is likely another attempt will be made.

Juventus were beaten in two Champions League finals in 2015 and 2017, but since then, they have reached one quarter-final and three times could not get beyond the round of 16. It is arguable that the Cristiano Ronaldo experiment was not a big success, from both a playing perspective and financially.

Juve have been one of the most active clubs in the transfer market over the past five seasons (2018-19 to 2022-23). Only Chelsea (€ 900 million) have spent more than Juve’s € 877.9 million and their net spend of € 288 million is among the 10 highest worldwide. Clearly, this level of spending is unsustainable. In 2022-23, their transfer balance sheet is currently a positive after they sold Matthijs de Ligt to Bayern Munich for € 67 million. They picked up two notable big names on free transfers in Ángel Di Maria and Paul Pogba, both of whom are older than the likes of de Ligt.

Juventus cannot afford many more slip-ups in the Champions League in 2022-23, they’ve lost their first two games in the group stage, against Paris Saint-Germain and Benfica, so more setbacks may consign them to the Europa League in the knockout phase. That would surely impact their revenue generation into 2023.

Boring? The Champions League is still the best we’ve got

TWENTY-ONE of this season’s UEFA Champions League group stage clubs were involved in the 2021-22 campaign. Given this phase of the competition is supposed to represent the best that Europe has to offer, this should surprise nobody. Indeed, if the constitution feels a little stale, it is because European football, generally, is dominated by the same clubs in almost every major country. As a result, the standard bearers for each nation have a very familiar look about them.

The modern game has evolved into a series of hegemonies, where money, power and influence have elevated a group of clubs that are expected to dominate and show leadership. The Champions League, which has played its part in creating these clubs, has become the property of the elite but at the same time, it has given lesser clubs the chance to earn serious money on an occasional basis. But let’s be frank, the competition belongs to the rich and those that sit outside the golden ring are really thrown scraps from the table, albeit valuable, gilded scraps.

However, it is hard to dispute that the quality of the competition – at least in the knockout stages – is hard to beat and is arguably more compelling than the World Cup and other national team tournaments. Continued participation in the Champions League allows clubs to go back to their domestic leagues with a distinct financial advantage.

It’s understandable, then, that of the 32, 13 feature in Deloitte’s Football Money League top 20 for 2022 and a further two are in the 30. Seven are not involved, the most notable exclusions being Manchester United and Arsenal, who have become Europa League clubs for the time being.

The creation of the Champions League, which expanded the idea of the European Champion Clubs Cup to include more than just the league champions of each country, has almost guaranteed that Europe’s biggest clubs have a better chance of participating each year. This is good for the clubs concerned and good for UEFA from a financial and marketing perspective, but is it necessarily good for those that do not, and are never likely to, take part? Is making the elite band completely inaccessible really good for the overall health of the game? In 2021-22, the four Premier League clubs that took part in the Champions League earned close to £ 400 million between them. Football’s great selling point has always been the prospect of the unexpected and the possibility of having aspiration. By almost ring-fencing the gravy train, some of that is removed. Unfortunately, the Champions League brought the idea of extreme capitalism to football, the survival of the fittest and richest and damn the rest.

 TeamsDomestic
Champions

2021-22
European
silverware winners
Group AAjax, Liverpool, Napoli, Rangers14
Group BAtlético, Brugge, Leverkusen, Porto22
Group CBarcelona, Bayern, Inter, Viktoria Plzn23
Group DFrankfurt, Marseille, Sporting, Tottenham04
Group EAC Milan, Chelsea, Dinamo Zagreb, Salzburg33
Group FCeltic, RB Leipzig, Real Madrid, Shakhtar33
Group GCopenhagen, Dortmund, Manchester City, Sevilla23
Group HBenfica, Juventus, Maccabi Haifa, Paris Saint-Germain23


Of this year’s group stage clubs, 15 were league champions in 2021-22 – in pre-Champions League days, these clubs would have taken part in the European Cup and the rest would enter the UEFA Cup (or even Cup-Winners’ Cup), which was a strong and lucrative competition at its peak. The expanded Champions League clearly damaged the credibility of the UEFA/Europa League, but in 2022, we saw a revival of UEFA’s second and third offering – the pleasure people seemed to get from both the Europa and Conference leagues was very visible. UEFA, as derided as they frequently are, may have got something right in they have given back some aspiration. If closely linking all three competitions was possible (beyond the Europa winners being given a place in the Champions League), UEFA may have stumbled upon a credible response to those calling for a super league.

The critics of the bloated format of the Champions League might consider that familiarity breeds contempt, but the group stages don’t always reveal that. For example, in five years between 2017-18 and 2021-22, Bayern Munich had 15 different opponents (out of 15) in the group stage, Liverpool and Juventus had 14 and Real Madrid and Manchester City 13. This season’s draw, an example of how to squeeze a lot out of a seemingly simple process, has brought together a few old friends, such as Real Madrid and Shakhtar for the third season running, Liverpool with Ajax and Napoli and Barcelona and Bayern.

It is inevitable the latter stages will look like the same old scene because the best teams should win through the group phase. On average, the last eight changes by 50% per season, but in 2021-22, five teams remained the same as the previous season. From a small number, the likely winners of the Champions League will emerge. We’ve seen four different champions in four years: Liverpool, Bayern, Chelsea and Real Madrid. In that time, there have been seven different finalists out of a possible eight. The “bulge bracket” of clubs currently comprises the top Premier clubs (at this moment Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea, but likely to change at any moment),  Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich. It is no coincidence that the last seven finalists include those six clubs plus Tottenham. Barcelona are temporarily sidelined, but not for long. The usual Quarter-finals include three clubs from Spain, two from England, one from Germany and then two drawn from Portugal, France or Italy. Regardless of what some sceptics might claim, not one club has been an ever present in the last eight of the Champions League over the past decade and in the last five years, just one has been ever present, Manchester City.

Best performance in European Cup/UEFA Champions League32 Group stage entrants
WinnersAC Milan, Ajax, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Benfica, Borussia Dortmund, Celtic,  Chelsea, Inter Milan, Juventus, Liverpool, Marseille, Porto, Real Madrid (14)
FinalistsAtlético Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen, Brugge, Eintracht Frankfurt, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Tottenham (7)
Semi-finalistsRB Leipzig, Rangers (2)
Quarter-finalsSevilla, Sporting Lisbon, Shakhtar Donetsk (3)
Round of 16FC Copenhagen, Napoli, Red Bull Salzburg (3)
GroupDinamo Zagreb, Maccabi Haifa, Viktoria Pilzn (3)