If one man in Italy has come out of the flopped Super League of top European clubs in Italy, it is Andrea Agnelli, the chairman of Juventus. The Juventus share has been hit hard on the stock market. Agnelli himself is called a Judas who has played a doubles match. He has now resigned his board positions in European football. And then the multi-million team for which he is responsible also played a draw against Fiorentina on Sunday, making a place in the Champions League uncertain.
Agnelli was with Florentino Pérez, the president of Real Madrid, the driving force behind the idea of a Super League. The two already knew each other well from 2018, when star player Cristiano Ronaldo moved from Madrid to Turin for 105 million euros. Together they have convinced the owners of the two other Italian clubs, the American investment fund Elliott (AC Milan) and the Chinese company Suning (Internazionale) and the six British clubs.
It will be little consolation to 45-year-old Agnelli that the riot surrounding the Super League has sparked discussion about the future of football. Even though there was a storm of criticism about the idea of a Super League as a ‘solution’, it was an excellent time to put some bottlenecks on the table. “The current football model is outdated, it has no future,” said Beppe Marotta, Inter’s general manager, on Sunday. He also said he was kept out of talks about a Super League by the Chinese club owner.
Maximum for salaries
The discussion in Italy has now begun. The national football association is considering setting a maximum for player salaries in relation to the budget. But Agnelli is no longer someone to be listened to in this debate. Urbano Cairo, the influential president of Torino, has been particularly hard at him. Agnelli has played a doubles game “in bad faith”, causing smaller Serie A clubs to lose a lot of money, Cairo said.
Agnelli was in a delegation of five Serie A clubs negotiating with a group of investors led by major private equity firm CVC Capital to monetize the Serie A rights; there is still much to be gained there, especially in Asia. A new company would be established for this. The investors would pay 1.7 billion euros for a ten percent stake in this – a welcome injection of capital for the Italian clubs.
Negotiations on this stalled in February. Looking back on that, many club presidents suspect that Agnelli has consciously sabotaged these conversations. He was talking about the Super League at the same time. According to news agency Reuters, CVC had already gotten wind of the then vague plans for a Super League in 2018 and wanted to contractually stipulate that the investment plans would only continue if no Serie A clubs would participate in the Super League.
Agnelli has rejected such suggestions as ‘speculation’ in comments via Italian media.
The people spoke and within 48 hours the Super League was dismantled
Everyone recognizes that the enormous debt burden of Italian clubs is unsustainable. Juventus was indebted to Euro 390 million, Inter 323 million, Milan 104 on June 30 last year, according to KPMG. That was empty stadiums after four months. Now debts have increased even further. Moratta, of Inter, said player salaries make up between 60 and 70 percent of the budget. “We have to come up with something,” he said on Sunday – the upcoming Inter Championship will only partially solve those concerns.
A Super League is not the solution, says Paolo Maldini, technical director of Milan, also kept out of the negotiations. “Income and (financial) feasibility are important, but without sacrificing meritocracy and dreams” – the term ‘meritocracy’ has been widely used to advocate for people to be rewarded on the basis of what they can do rather than on years of service , but has now also gained a place in football: smaller clubs that play well should be given a fair chance.
“We must be able to continue to hope that a small team can compete with the big ones,” said Gian Piero Gasperini, who puts this into practice as coach of Atalanta (after the 5-0 against Bologna on Sunday, the club is in second place. ). “It shouldn’t be the case that we have to travel by bicycle and the others in a Ferrari.”
A matter of age
Let’s be real, Agnelli said as he set out his vision in detail on Wednesday La Repubblica – owned by his family. In the past hundred years, Juventus, Milan and Inter have become champions together eighty times. Shouldn’t small clubs dream? “In the beginning, the teams won from the big cities – from Bucharest to Belgrade, because they had big stadiums and high revenues. After that came the TV rights and England, France, Germany, Spain and Italy began to rule. Everyone else – from the Netherlands to Serbia – has disappeared, not because they don’t deserve it, but because they don’t belong to a country whose GDP guaranteed substantial TV rights. The next step is global brands. ”
It’s also a matter of age, Agnelli said. “Young people want to see big events and are less bound by elements of chauvinism that characterized previous generations, including mine.” This was also an implicit reference to the great interest in countries such as China and India that investment banks had presented to those interested in a SUper League.
Agnelli stepped down from his duties as a member of the UEFA executive committee and president of the ECA (the association of European clubs) last week. He still had to say something about this to Repubblica. UEFA fully controls the international competitions, but does not run any risk itself and has no idea what is going on because of the pandemic and the different attitude of young people. “I have not been able to make them understand the economic risk for the clubs, which generate value for all football stakeholders. Or maybe they never wanted to understand. ”
According to the thousands of supporters who have angrily turned against the idea of a Super League in many countries, it was too much about the money. According to Agnelli, it is too little about money. But, as the ball was reflected in Italian media, should we not also be talking about the 31 million per year for which Ronaldo is under contract with Juventus?
‘Agnelli has betrayed clubs Serie A with doubles’
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