12 March 2021
Gianni Agnelli’s deep love for Juventus saw him become one of the most iconic figures in the club’s history. Juve was a constant throughout his life – and even now, fans of the Old Lady remember him and his words with genuine fondness. In this piece, we look back at some of his most memorable quotes.
“When I became the president of Juventus, people wrote: a 50-year-old club now has a 25-year-old president.”
Gianni Agnelli assumed the position of Juventus president in 1947 and held the role for seven years, until 1954. During that time, he helped to build a team that won two Scudetto titles, featuring the talented Danish players John Hansen and Karl Aage Praest and containing perhaps the most promising young Italian around at the time, Giampiero Boniperti. Agnelli once said that he found the whole experience so enjoyable that he was eventually forced to step back, in order to focus on his other professional activities full time.
“I’ve said this to the players too. For us, the shirt is more important than the name.”
Agnelli always stayed close to the team, making regular visits to gauge the side’s progress and convey the values synonymous with Juventus to the players.
“Passion doesn’t change or get old. That’s for sure.”
Agnelli’s day-to-day monitoring of the team stemmed from his interest as a fan, not to mention the pleasure he took from experiencing life within the club, something that took him back to his childhood: “I played football at the D'Azeglio, where Juve was born,” he once said. “I was 14 or 15 at the time. We also used to play in Piazza d’Armi a lot, with whoever you found there. I stopped early on, though. I can’t remember the first game I saw. I remember the training sessions, on the old pitch. I used to go with my father – I was 12 or 13 years old. There was a Hungarian left-winger on trial, [Ferenc] Hirzer. They called him gazzella [gazelle]. He was very fast. Back then you used to go to watch the team, to watch training, as you’d go and watch racehorses.”
“Other people talk about the Juve style, not us.”
Gianni Agnelli was a journalist’s dream. His comments were often deeply evocative, transcending the events at hand to speak to something deeper: the very philosophy and culture underpinning Juventus. In times of hardship, when clear direction was required, it was often Agnelli that provided it: “Juventus are used to saying and believe that when things are going well, it’s down to the players, and that when things aren’t going so well, it’s the club’s fault.”
“In Villar Perosa I’m more popular than the players. If that can’t be true in my own home…”
The annual match between the Juventus first team and Primavera side is an Agnelli family tradition that has remained unchanged for years and years. The crowds, the clamour to see the new team (in years gone by it was often the first match of the new season), the discussions around the approaching campaign… it all comes together to ensure that every game is a memorable one.
“Boniperti and Trapattoni deserve recognition.”
Continuity is one of those values that we closely associate Juventus. That doesn’t mean simply respecting traditions, though. In fact, our club has always found the strength to keep moving forward by constantly renewing its focus and ensuring worthy achievements are recognised. There’s no better of example of that than Giampiero Boniperti – first as a player, then as a president – and Giovanni Trapattoni, the club’s longest-serving manager. Both men were held in the highest regard by Agnelli.
“I gave Del Piero the nickname Pinturicchio because of the way he looked and his style of play. He always scores excellent goals.”
In Agnelli’s mind, football and Juventus were synonymous with attractive play. Perhaps that’s why he gave Alessandro Del Piero a nickname based on the Italian painter Pinturicchio, or the reason he compared Roberto Baggio with Raphael. Agnelli loved No.10s, and had a particular weakness for Omar Sivori. “He’s more than a superstar. For football lovers, he’s a vice,” he once said. And then there was Le Roi himself, Michel Platini. “Platini will always be unique, inimitable. There’ll never be another Platini at Juve. There’s nobody who can replace him in the world. If, as I hope, we have a player at Juventus one day we can say is better than Platini, I’ll say it with a tinge of sadness,” he said.
“I love football. Perhaps I love it too much, to the point that I put it ahead of all other weekend activities. Yes, I love this unrivalled sport.”
Agnelli had a true passion for the game of football. He loved knowing everything there was to know about Juventus, but also liked to cast his eye further afield too. Yet Agnelli didn’t just care about the game itself – his regular meetings with staff, often conducted over the telephone in the early morning, were designed to open up the human side of sport. And then there was going to the stadium. Agnelli took great pleasure in attending Juventus matches and dropping in to see the team during half-time, though he would never say a word nor interfere in anyway. He simply wanted to understand what was happening from within.
“Before the game, I’m always nervous. After it, I’m almost always happy.”
Most of the photographs documenting Agnelli’s connection with Juventus depict him sitting in the stands, intently watching his beloved team. He often looks to be enjoying himself, wearing the expression of someone who believes that something is about to happen that will satisfy both his desire for victory and his thirst for attractive football. Happiness always seemed to come easily to Agnelli, even in the most unlikely of situations: “During the toughest spells in a match, something in my subconscious always kicks in – a determination never to give in. And that’s the reason why Juventus win even when you aren’t expecting them to.”
Throughout his lifetime, Gianni Agnelli’s words often succeeded in capturing the mood of the Juventus family. And so it’s fitting that an Agnelli quote has pride of place at the entrance to Juventus Museum, and that the modern Juventus logo captures the very essence of the club that was his lifelong passion.