“Juventus will not win because of its history but because of the hard work we put in every day.” Andrea Agnelli covered a wide range of topics during the press conference held after this morning's shareholders' meeting, touching on many key issues, but the most important message in a purely sporting sense was perhaps this: we cannot rest on our laurels.
The president explained: “It's hard to look at yourself critically when you win. You're inclined to think that you're doing everything right. But the right thing to do is take a long, hard look at yourself and remember that you don't win because of your history, but what you do on a daily basis.”
And winning again, for the third year in a row, will be even more difficult. “There's a reason why Juventus have not won three consecutive titles since the 1930s. If we manage to pull it off, we'll rewrite this club's history.”
That will be no easy task but it's certainly attainable, and the Bianconeri have every reason to be optimistic: “We're two months into the season, we've already added one cup to the trophy cabinet, we're second in the league and still in the running to qualify from our Champions League group. Drawing in Madrid wouldn't have made an awful lot of difference to losing. We made a couple of mistakes against Real and you pay for that at this level in Europe, and certainly in Madrid.”
There may have seemed to be little difference between Juventus and Real Madrid on the field, but in terms of financial muscle Italian football still lags some way behind the rest of Europe, and that is precisely why reforms are so needed. Key in that respect will be the adoption of “a clear and transparent way of working that lets members put forward proposals which can be assessed calmly. We all want the same thing, which is to maximise income from TV broadcasting rights in Italy and abroad, but also to make sure that this figure is less important proportionally by increasing other sources of income.”
Juventus are already hard at work in that sense, with yesterday's announcement of a new sponsorship deal with Adidas the most recent example. “We still have a year and a half to run on our agreement with Nike and it's very important to us because we're developing a number of projects together,” the president stressed. “But I'm proud to say that we have identified Adidas as the next player. Yes, the figures involved are considerable, but we mustn't look only at the Italian market. Just today we've heard rumours of an agreement between Nike and one of Europe's biggest clubs for a deal worth €70 million a year. That's what we should be looking at, not who earns the most in our own country.”
Stadium gate receipts is another area where the gap must be closed with the rest of Europe. “Juventus need to be competing with Real Madrid, Bayern and Chelsea, yet I find it hard to place Turin on a level playing field with Madrid, Munich or London when you look at population and tourism figures. Those clubs can charge much more for seats at their grounds than we can. Our most expensive season ticket is €10,000 compared to €100,000 at the Bernabeu. We can't afford to raise our prices at the moment: look at San Siro, the Scala of football, where a season ticket in the third tier costs €300. It's an obsolete arena compared to Juventus Stadium and it would be easier for us to raise prices in our first tier, but you need to do things across the board.”
Agnelli concluded by commenting on the future role he feels the Lega has to play: “The Lega's aim must be to increase competitiveness within the system. If you look at the growth of English or German football, you see that the smaller clubs have grown at the same time, without taking anything away from the big clubs, and mid-table teams have been able to buy Italy internationals.
"We must try to reach the point where a club like Sassuolo can afford to spend 15 or 20 million euros to sign an England or Germany international. If we could have players of that sort of quality at the smaller clubs here, it would boost the whole football product. I hold the Lega president in high regard, I've known him since he worked at Fiat, but in this day and age we need a truly representative president and a managing director to run the Lega itself.”