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What should Juventus do to get to the top of Europe?

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Almost six years ago, Andrea Agnelli took over the Juventus presidency. One of his first acts was to appoint Beppe Marotta and Fabio Paratici to implement his vision for the club.  Importantly, In the first year there were some growing pains, Juventus sold many players — some at a loss — and bought others with Beppe's now famous loan-with-option-to-buy, and appointed Gigi Delneri as coach. Unfortunately, the end product was terrible, Juventus finished seventh, they were out of Europe and everything pointed to the club having to start from scratch.

But Marotta and Paratici had just laid the groundwork. Simone Pepe, Marco Storari, Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli, and Alessandro Matri were some of the players bought during Agnelli's first year. These players will go on to win many Scudetti in the coming years under the direction of Antonio Conte. In fact, after the 2011-12 season, it was clear that results had arrived quicker than anyone else expected. Understandably, Conte wanted his team to grow at a faster pace that our finances would allow. The management would add great players like Pirlo, Vidal, Pogba, but Conte wanted more.

Some fans also grew tired. Juventus became a force in Italy winning multiple Scudetti and breaking almost any Serie A record on its way.  Europe, however, was another story. The lack of convincing performances in Europe, combined with the absolute domination in Serie A, led most pundits to conclude that the league is mediocre, and that Juventus are nothing but a medium size fish in the smallest pond on the planet.

True or not, this was the rhetoric and it became impossible to change it.

Which brings us to 2014 and a new manager in Max Allegri. To say that his appointment lacked fan support would be a massive understatement. Unfazed by the criticism, Max put his head down and got to work. Unsurprisingly, Juventus would continue to conquer Serie A. Also unsurprisingly, they hardly convinced anyone in Europe. Finishing second after Atletico Madrid and losing to Atletico and Olympiakos gave the appearance that Juve were still the same European light weight. Fast forward five months and Juventus had made it to the final and could have won it if lady luck would have been more favorable to the black and white colors. Many people thought that making it to the final would buy Juventus some respect, but not much came off it.

This year, Juventus were taken more seriously, recording a massive win in England against Manchester City. But the loss to Sevilla and the subsequent draw with Bayern seemed to seal our faith. Yes, Juve came close to going through, but the hard reality is that they lost to a team that was better than them. And as Juventini, we know that we don't lick our wounds for too long, but we look forward to how to improve, how to beat Bayern and Barca, how to get to the top.

So what should Juventus do to make it to the next level?

First of all we need to establish our real level.  At this point, I believe that Juve are not in the top tier of Europe. In my opinion, that honor is reserved for Bayern and Barcelona. Maybe Real Madrid can be up there too depending on who is coaching the team. Then there is Paris Saint-Germain and Juve. Next summer, we can probably include Manchester City under Pep Guardiola, Chelsea under Conte, and United under Jose Mourinho. The last three must be considered because their spending power is so large that they can build a competitive team in one summer.

So, all in all, we are not bad, but we are also not where we need to be.

With that out of the way then here are five things that will allow us to move forward:

Sporting goals

Keep our stars. Pogba, LBonucci and Dybala are at the heart of this team and Juventus should build its future on these players. Losing them in the short term would set us back to the level of Borussia Dortmund or Atleti. The exception being Pogba. If handled properly, his sale could do for Juventus what Zidane's sale did for us in the past. With that being said, I still insist that Juventus should try to keep Pogba until at least the 2018 World Cup.

Keep Álvaro Morata. Morata says that he doesn't have a say about what happens and that it depends on Real Madrid.  The reality is that if the player doesn't want to move then Real Madrid can't really force the issue. I think that if the player wants to stay, Marotta can give Real Madrid an extra €15 million and keep the player for good. The young Spaniard has recovered his form as of late and his speed and trickery would be crucial for Juventus to make a mark in Europe. I am still unsure if Morata and Dybala can play together, but Allegri should do whatever possible to make sure our most talented strikers develop a successful partnership.  .

Develop a European identity. We need to find a better way to play in Europe than to bunker down and hope we can hit other teams on the counter. I am not saying go with a high-line against Bayern as this would be reckless, but Juve need to play like they did against Bayern in the first 45 minutes in Munich. Or like they did against Real Madrid over the two legs last year.  Sure, Juve took advantage of our defensive solidity, but they also pressed their players further up the pitch. Although the loss against Bayern was a hard pill to swallow, it can also be used to learn a lot as to how to play in Europe in the future.

Economic goals

Raise our wages. Right now, Juve's highest earners receive between €4-5 million plus bonuses. Although the bonuses can really improve players' salaries, our wage structure is out of pace with all of the big European clubs. Players like Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria, Edinson Cavani and Zlatan Ibrahimovic make significantly more than any of Juve's players. Bringing players of this caliber to Juventus is now impossible.  This limits what we can do in the transfer market: sign established players when their contract is up offering a decent salary (Khedira), or buy young players with potential looking to make the jump to a big club (Dybala).  In other words Juventus will buy 18-22 year olds or 29-31 year olds that are capable of changing our team.  Players in their mid 20s are out of our reach.

This is one of my hesitations about selling Pogba. What good can we do with €100 million if we are still offering €3 million per year types of contracts? Players like Isco or Gundogan may prefer to move to England where their salaries are higher even if we match the parent's club asking price.

Buy few players with high impact instead of many players with low ceiling. We have been moving in this direction.

Year
Number of players in
Approximate total Cost
2010-11
20
€59 million
2011-12
20
Not available
2012-13
15
€54 million
2013-14
5
€23 million
2014-15
9
€34 million
2015-16
11
€120 million

Players in may be counted twice. For example, Matri's loan in 2010-11 will count as a player acquisition, his full purchase will count as a player acquisition in 2011-12.  Numbers from Wikipedia.

The general trend has been buying fewer players and the quality of the players has increased. Even in 2013-14 when we signed five players, we brought in Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente for €10 million with Angelo Ogbonna making up the difference. Last year, the new Adidas deal, the sale of Vidal, Ogbonna and Coman, and our deep run in the Champions League gave us plenty of funds to rebuild the team.

Moving forward, Juve need to buy two to four great players every year. Some promising stars sure, but also established players. I am hoping they start seeing that over the next few years.

Improve our commercial earnings. The Deloitte and Touche Money league has Juventus in 10th place. Interestingly, the biggest drop in earnings is between No. 9 (Liverpool) and No. 10 (Juventus). And with the new Premier League television deal, this gap is set to become even bigger. But Juventus' broadcast deal is nothing to be ashamed of. Last year the Old Lady received the distributions from Champions League was the highest ever paid to a club (€89.1 million).

The problem seems to be the match day revenue and the commercial earnings. Given that the size of Juventus Stadium is unchangeable, the only way to make more from match day revenue is by charging more for entry.  Not necessarily a popular measure. The other way to improve our overall revenue is by improving our commercial earnings  The plan for the J-Village due next year should improve our standings and allow us to continue in the top 10. Moving up higher in the table will be challenging since the next four clubs ahead of Juve are English and will receive a huge boost from the new broadcasting deal.  For example, moving up to No. 5 will require over €150 million increased in revenue (almost a 50 percent increase of what they currently make) and that is not counting the new broadcasting deal. Creativity from management here will be crucial.

Since 2010, Juventus growth has been impressive. They have doubled their total earnings, won four Serie A titles, one Coppa Italia, made it to one Champions League final and came within minutes of eliminating Bayern Munich this year.  Juve have gone from buying players like Matri and Mirko Vucinic to signing young exciting players like Morata, Dybala, and established players like Tevez and Mandzukic. But there is still much to do and Juventus will only get there by consistently performing in Europe and asserting ourselves financially in the upcoming transfer markets.