Illustrious figures touched by the exceptional qualities of former Juventus president Umberto Agnelli over the course of his distinguished life gathered together this morning to mark the tenth anniversary of his passing with a special remembrance service in Sestriere.
Among the 400 people paying their respects at today’s event, entitled ‘The extraordinary commitment of a man: Umberto Agnelli’, were Donna Allegra, FIAT chairman John Elkann, several members of the Agnelli family, Ferrari chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo and various friends of the much-loved ‘Dottore’.
Offering touching tributes during the service were Sestriere and Turin mayors Valter Marin and Piero Fassino, Japanese ambassador to Italy Masaharu Kono, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne, the honorable Enrico Letta, Pavel Nedved and Andrea Agnelli.
Umberto Agnelli had many strings to his bow. He was a successful entrepreneur, politician and an internationally renowned personality with a strong attachment to his home city.
It was in his beloved Turin where he guided Juventus to glory during both of his two separate tenures as president, and joining Agnelli and Nedved in representing the club he held so dear were Giuseppe Marotta, Aldo Mazzia, Antonio Conte and Gianluigi Buffon.
"Umberto Agnelli was a crucial figure for Italian sport," recalled Nedved. "He brought great players to Turin, from Charles to Zidane. Buffon and Davids. I have thousands of memories of him in the dressing room and the stadium. I remember him talking about the games, sometimes as we had coffee the morning after, sat in my kitchen.
"He wasn’t someone you spoke to very much. And yet he communicated so much. His silence and his smiles were comforting. A support. Guidance. In a certain sense he was the ideal interlocutor for the dressing room. He had charisma and gave a sense of security. They’re the perfect qualities to be able to influence athletes.
"He was the first person to declare in public that, yes, football needs star players, but it also needs to be sustainable, balanced and capable of financing itself. And these issues remain very much the order of the day.
“It was the Christmas dinner in 2003 and at a certain point of the evening I realised that lots of my team-mates who were close to Il Dottore at the time kept looking at me. Later I found out that Umberto Agnelli was talking about the soon-to-be-awarded Ballon d'Or. Apparently he'd been telling everyone how he hoped it would be my turn that year.
“He knew what he was talking about, Il Dottore. A few days later I found myself on the cover of France Football, and what joy I felt. Joy I was able to share with him, just a few months before he left us.”
Concluding with a few recollections of his own was Umberto Agnelli’s son, Andrea, who said: “More than the actual words spoken it was the sentiment with which they were said that struck me. Umberto Agnelli was a forward-thinking man and one who led by example.
“These qualities, not his words, were what made the difference. Each of us recalls different aspects attributed to him, but I think two are remembered by all: strictness and kindness. He was tough when it came to discipline, but affable in his dealings with people.”