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BWRAO Mailbag, Vol. 3 : Talking Croats, EXOR and your World Cup team

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The mailbag has a proposition for you all.

Juventus FC v AC Milan - TIM Cup Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

The Champions League is over, all domestic competitions are done and, with only 10 days left for the World Cup to start, we find ourselves in a bit of a dry spell as far as news come. But fear not! With transfer rumors and rampant speculation, we have enough to talk about in the BWRAO mailbag.

As previously mentioned, if you want to get your questions in the mailbag send an email to BWRAOmailbag@gmail.com with your question and name, or if you’d like to keep it anonymous, that plays as well. Another way to get your question to us is via Twitter. @JuventusNation is our handle and do something other than argue with Danny. Write the question and use the hashtag #BWRAOMailbag.

Let’s do it.

Where do you think Marko Pjaca fits in our plans the next season? I mean, everyone has seen Juve being linked with Martial and Morata, if any one of them arrives without someone leaving, then I think it will be very difficult for him to get minutes (Especially considering Costa, Dybala & Higuain are almost certain starters, and the idea of playing with 2 in the midfield is not appealing). Aditya, India

Manu C: We talked a little bit about where Marko Pjaca might fit into Juventus squad in last week’s mailbag, but it’s worth to get into it a bit more, because this might be a make or break season for the young Croat.

First off, we have to acknowledge that we have no way of knowing how Max Allegri will decide how to play next season. At the onset of the 2017-18 season, it seemed like a sure thing that he would continue to use the 4-2-3-1 lineup, especially with the additions of Federico Bernardeschi and Douglas Costa to the squad. But after some ineffectiveness he quickly tinkered with the squad and played different formations until settling into the 4-3-3 that finished the season. So, while we are working under the assumption that the trident of Douglas Costa, Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain will continue to be the first-choice attack for next season, it might not be true after a few months.

As far as transfers goes, I wouldn’t bet on either Alvaro Morata or Anthony Martial coming to Juventus. Chelsea is not giving up on Morata after one year and they are ABSOLUTELY not giving up on him for anything less than a €50-60 million price tag, which Juventus will probably not pay. And, while the rumors about Martial coming to Juventus might be intensifying — Betfair has Juventus signing Martial this summer at 2/1 odds, which, sure? — the price tag that is circulating is also around €60 million, I just don’t see them paying that amount of money when they still have to formalize the Douglas Costa signing and make upgrades at the midfield position.

However, even without any new signings, at first glance Juventus attack seems crowded with Mario Mandzukic, Pjaca, Bernardeschi, Costa, Dybala and Higuain, all vying for three starting spots.

And, yet, as this season showed, you can never have enough depth. Every season injuries, lack of form or a change in lineup happens and we end up running out of players. All it takes is a pulled hamstring and Pjaca might be thrown right into the fire. Which is good for him, because, well…

*Looks right*

*Looks left*

*Whispers*

Pjaca might be a bust.

I know he didn’t get many chances in his first season and I know he got injured, listen I get it, but the facts are that Juventus paid €23 million for three goals in two years and two of those goals were for Schalke. The kid has a bunch of talent and he is going to be over a year removed from his injury, so I expect him to show something this season, if not he might find himself looking for a new club very soon.

Super Mario is like a soldier out there, he would play any position you ask him to play and would sacrifice for his team. And he seems to be Allegri’s favorite. Would it be a mistake to let him go now? Nael, Florida

MC: As recent statements by head honcho Beppe Marotta suggest, it seems like Mario Manduzkic will be a Juventus player next season. And, like you, I’m glad that’s the case.

While he is not anybody’s idea of a typical winger, Mandzukic has carved himself a neat role with Juventus. Using his height and physicality he presents a mismatch against shorter fullbacks, that in certain matchups like the return leg against Real Madrid, can become deadly.

Obviously, his unlimited amount of grinta and stamina on the left flank are also a different wrinkle to traditional wingers, who tend to be more attack focused and not as good on the defensive side.

I think he can still provide depth and a change of pace and tactics, but I hope he gets fewer minutes next season compared to Douglas Costa, who in my mind, should be the no. 1 option every time in that left winger position.

Why can’t FIAT, owner of Juventus, inject millions of euro to boost financial status of the club? Apata Jamiu, Nigeria

MC: On the surface, this seems like an obvious solution. Why doesn’t FIAT, a multi-billion dollar company, inject a few extra millions into Juventus? As it generally happens in the finance world, though, the answer is not that simple.

To help me answer this question I enlisted the help of BWRAO’s own, Fefu, who helped me understand the inner workings of Juventus financial situation.

First of it’s Exor, not FIAT, who owns Juventus. Exor is the holding company owned by the Agnelli family and it’s chairman is John Elkann, quoting Fefu:

“Exor exists solely to invest and hold shares in a myriad of companies that the Agnellis have an interest in. Two of those companies are Juventus and Fiat-Chrysler (FCA). It is good to note that the Elkann/Agnellis only control 52.99% of the Exor Group shares via the company Giovanni Agnelli BV. The rest of the shares are owned by outside shareholders.”

While Exor doesn’t fully own all the companies that they have a stake in, like Fiat-Chrysler or Ferrari, they do own almost 64 percent of Juventus and are in full control of the club.

The truth is, that there is no real answer as of why Exor doesn’t sink millions into Juventus, other than the €20 million sponsorship deal they have with the club. There could be a couple answers, as Fefu speculates, Juventus has long been a personal passion of the Agnelli family, not necessarily a financially viable company. In the early days, the Agnelli family invested millions into its budget because they loved the club. As the business has turned into a holding company with many more shareholders, it’s logical to assume that sinking money into Juventus might not be the most fiscally sound proposition, especially since many people involved in Exor don’t have a sentimental attachment to the club.

In purely financial talk, Juventus and most football clubs are not good business. As Fefu, points out:

“It has huge operating costs (mostly salaries), rapidly depreciating assets (player registration rights) and to top it all, revenue streams that are heavily dependent on sporting results which are in turn subject to random events like a ref calling a wrong penalty and blowing 20m down the drain.”

This is me speculating, but I guess that if Juventus were able to increase their merchandising and branding revenues in untapped markets and get a more favorable deal when it comes to broadcasting rights, the club itself could become more profitable and maybe entice Exor to put more money into it. Similar to how Manchester United, for example, gets buoyed by a massive TV deal and great branding and merchandising revenues.

If that doesn’t change, I don’t see Exor injecting anything more into the club than the already mentioned sponsorship deal.

Parting shot of the week.

A funny thing will happen in Russia.

As an English-speaking site that focuses on an Italian club, I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to say that a large amount of our readership roots for either the United States men’s national team or Italy when the World Cup comes around every four years.

Slight problem, though? Both teams are out of this year’s World Cup, with Italy crashing out during the European qualification playoffs against Sweden and the U.S. getting edged out by Honduras for the last chance inter-confederation playoffs.

This is unusual, folks. Last time the United States didn’t qualify for the World Cup was 32 years ago for the 1986 World Cup, and for Italy its even longer with their last no-show coming in 1958 World Cup, that’s 60 years ago!

So, for all our BWRAO readers that think that they will have to go without a rooting interest in this year’s World Cup, I have a proposition.

What would you say if there’s a team that has an outside chance of making some noise, with a passionate fanbase, a storied football tradition and a high likelihood of being on every TV on every sports bar in America?

Folks, I’m here to pitch you on why you should root for my home country of Mexico, in this 2018 Russia World Cup.

Last time Mexico missed a World Cup was in 1990. Since, they have participated in every single edition and crashed out on the Round of 16 in every single one. It’s kind of impressive to sustain that level of tease for most of my life and yet, they continue to come up with new and exciting ways to rip the heart out of every single Mexican fan.

Penalty shootout loss? Check.

Last minute meltdown against a football super power? Check.

Backbreaking, unexpected loss against a huge rival? You betcha.

Getting blown out by, yet another, football superpower? Sure.

Losing in overtime thanks to an absurd goal? Why not.

Getting screwed over by a borderline penalty call in the last minutes of the game? PLEASE.

(This was a very rough 15 minutes of Youtube for your boy)

You would think that after this repeated history of Round of 16 eliminations and a relatively tough draw in the group stage, Mexican fans would have their guard up, right? Wrong! We’re already talking ourselves into the results needed to top the group and avoid a potential cross against Brazil in the Round of 16. Bear in mind those results would probably have to include victories against current World Cup champions Germany, Korea and Sweden.

Is it unlikely? Absolutely. Is it even something that seems possible, given the level of play displayed by the current Mexican squad? Of course not. But talk to any Mexican fan and they will quickly explain a scenario in which this, not only happens, but almost becomes a certainty. Hope springs eternal for Mexican fans.

And, hey are you the type of person that enjoys going to a pub, watch a game and meet new people? You’re in luck, by every conceivable statistic, if you live in a major metropolitan area within the USA you’re guaranteed to find a local watering hole that will be full of cheering Mexican fans, living and dying with every touch of the ball. Going by the numbers, the Mexican national soccer team may be the most broadly popular sports outfit in the United States.

Or, maybe you want to watch the World Cup to scout some new talent for Juventus? Hirving Lozano, a young winger currently playing for PSV Eindhoven in the Dutch league is coming off a fantastic season in which he scored 19 goals and 11 assists, was rumored to be a Juventus target. Hector Herrera, Porto FC captain and Portuguese champion is an all-around midfielder with great touch and superb outside shooting ability, he was also at one time rumored to be a Juventus target, though the latest rumors peg him as a Roma possibility.

So, BWRAO community, I can’t promise you much if you jump on the Mexican bandwagon. You are most likely looking at a Round of 16 exit, again, when they cross the Brazilian behemoth. But if you want to have a good time, with knowledgeable, friendly, passionate fans. I can’t recommend rooting for Mexico enough.

Pop open a Corona and join us, we might feed you a few Tequila or Mezcal shots, but we guarantee a good time.

Until next week!