Cristiano Ronaldo is a Juventus player. That is a sentence I never expected to write, but one that I’m sure glad I now can.
Ronaldo is, even at 33 years old, still a player at the height of his otherworldly powers. He scored 41 goals between La Liga and Champions League alone last season. For a team in Juventus that sometimes seem to struggle with a consistent attacking identity, Ronaldo solves this problem. He is the ultimate attacker, one who stops at nothing to bag loads of goals at all costs.
To get the Portuguese mega star, Juventus paid Real Madrid €100 million over two seasons, with the forward reportedly making €30 million net per season on a four-year contract. These are astronomical numbers when put into context with the other deals Juventus have made in the past. Gonzalo Higuain currently makes the most on the team, and Ronaldo would nearly quadruple Pipita’s earnings per year.
No player is more recognizable or more of an economic force of nature than Ronaldo. He makes obscene amounts of revenue from his assorted endorsements and sells jerseys like no other. Cristiano has a lifetime contract with Nike worth $1 billion. He has multiple apps. He is the face of the uber-popular FIFA video game franchise. Ronaldo is known across the world by all; ask someone who doesn’t even watch football, and they’ll know who he is. He is a player who moves the needle for a club in terms of stature and brand recognition. Ronaldo is the pinnacle of advertising, and in conjunction with a globally respected and influential brand like Juventus, this can only lead to a fruitful partnership.
But in order to fully understand what this merging between the two entities will bring, it is important to see how Juventus has arrived at this point. The club wasn’t always in the position it is now, and just over a decade ago was at the lowest point of all.
It comes back to this: Man, those mid-2000’s Juventus teams were great, weren’t they?
In 2004-05 and 2005-06, Juventus was on top of the Italian footballing world. Boasting superstar players and young talent filled to the brim, the club was in position to dominate the league and make deep runs in Europe, not too different than what has occurred recently.
Then, after winning back-to-back Scudetti in those two seasons, the Calciopoli bombshell disrupted everything that had been built. An investigation uncovered that illegal phone transmissions were being made between a bevy of clubs and match officials. Juventus, as anyone who was around during that tumultuous time or who knows the history of the club understands, was hit the hardest by the sanctions. Luciano Moggi was found to be the biggest culprit, and as a result Juventus was stripped of both titles, as well as relegated to Serie B with a nine point deduction. Even with a substantial lack of evidence, as well as information that other clubs participated just as much as Juventus, the FIGC still doesn’t acknowledge those titles. We do though, because the club earned them on the pitch, and Juventus was made an example of even with evidence of wrongdoing from others.
Calciopoli took a lot from Juventus and Italian football as a whole. After the verdict came down, stars like Lilian Thuram, Fabio Cannavaro, Emerson, Patrick Viera, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic fled to new pastures. A select few in Alessandro Del Piero, Gigi Buffon, David Trezeguet, Pavel Nedved, and Mauro Camoranesi elected to stay, and to this day are revered for their choice.
The scandal took more than just players away from Turin. The image and reputation of Juventus became tarnished and would take time to rebuild to the esteemed recognition it once held outside of supporters’ hearts. Juventus became the “team who cheats.” This is something fans still constantly deal with, as rival supporters are always quick to dismiss any Juventus achievement, instead claiming matches were favored for them. Remarkably, the club won the Serie B title, even with the deduction, and returned to the top flight a year later. That season in Serie B was a humbling experience for all involved. No longer in the glitz of Europe or the tense matches of Serie A, the stature of Juventus suffered immensely.
Stars like the aforementioned five were playing in front of small crowds in a lower league, and the question remained: How long would it take for Juventus to bring back players of the same caliber as the 2004-06 squads?
Once the return to the top flight was complete, signing stars would become something Juventus couldn’t do as well as their counterparts, both domestically and abroad. The “big” signings that 2007-08 season would be the likes Mohamed Sissoko and Zdanek Grygera. The next year, manager Claudio Ranieri would be sacked by the club over a dispute in transfer policy and tension with the directors, saying “We no longer agreed on transfer strategy. I was told that we’d agree on and buy players between the three of us: me, Alessio Secco, and Jean-Claude Blanc.” Juventus just didn’t have the means to compete with other clubs in the market, and weren’t nearly as attractive a destination as they were pre-Calciopoli.
Mediocrity would continue for the next few years, as Juventus would finish seventh in consecutive seasons (2009-10 and 2010-11). The tide would start to turn that following year however, as Antonio Conte would be appointed manager. Conte would lead the team to three consecutive Scudetti, but was unable to bring that same level of success into the Champions League. As well, the transfer policy was still to buy players on the cheap. Andrea Pirlo was brought in for free, and Arturo Vidal was only €10.5 million. Carlos Tevez was brought in for only €9 million. While this speaks to the prudence of the directors’ business savvy, it is also notable that the largest transfer during Conte’s three seasons was Kwadwo Asamoah for €18 million. The economic resources just weren’t yet back to the levels to compete with heavyweights abroad like Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Manchester City.
Conte resigned, and then famously lambast the club’s transfer policy by saying that you can’t dine at a €100 restaurant with only €10. Max Allegri would take the helm, and would immediately transform Juventus into European powerhouses. The bianconeri would finish runners-up in the 2015 and 2017 Champions League Finals, and win the Scudetto in each of his seasons in charge. But while success was being achieved domestically, more attention was needed on reaching European glory. More resources would be poured into the club, as seen most notably with the buys of Higuain and Miralem Pjanic. These signings were completed from other Serie A clubs however, and stars coming from abroad for large sums was still somewhat uncommon. Italian football wasn’t nearly as appealing as the money of the Premier League or the glamor of Spain’s big clubs. Paris Saint-Germain still had all the money in the world. Competition was deemed weak by outsiders, even though Juventus would do well in the Champions League, while others like Roma and Napoli would make substantial noise in the competition as well.
The Allegri era has also been met with a much-increased effort to grow Juventus abroad, in all parts of the world. The charge, being led by the Agnelli’s, only continues to evolve. The International Champions Cup would market the club in places like the United States, Australia, and Asia. Academies would be set up in all of these places and more, like Greece, the United Arab Emirates, Colombia, and Lebanon. The most striking change was something everyone remembers; the change to the new crest. A bold idea to switch to something so modern and such a far departure from the typical emblem was met with skepticism. Something that couldn’t be underestimated though was how this new look would appeal to the masses across the globe. The “J” would be instantly recognizable, and would immediately be associated with Juventus, as it is unlike any other club’s crest. It would also lead to more streetwear clothing, jewelry, and buildings with the crest emblazoned on it. This was a move beyond football, one that would grow the image and brand of Juventus in different ways than the product on the pitch and create a larger global enterprise.
This all brings us back to the collision of two global brands, the one occurring as I write this article.
The logic of moving for Ronaldo makes sense. The best player in the world — or second best, but I’m not getting into that right now — is available to come to play for your club. You take him if that’s the case. Ronaldo will make the club insane amounts of revenue from sponsorships - revenue from sponsors is expected to spike 30% -, shirt sales, and having eyes from all across the world on Turin. More than ever, people will be tuning in to see Ronaldo dice up the competition in Italy. The move will also boost Serie A, as more stars may become inclined to move to the peninsula. The image of the club and the league will become revitalized because Ronaldo has chosen to ply his trade in this league.
The move also represents the higher-ups going all-out to win a Champions League. The man has won five already, as well as five Balon d’Or awards, and no one is more successful than him in club football’s most prestigious tournament. For all of the effort that has been made across the board in raising Juventus’ appeal abroad, Ronaldo will represent the most significant step in the process.
For a club whose fans have come to expect shrewd, economically sound transfers, Ronaldo seems out of sorts and definitely caught everyone by surprise. Even though the money being paid now is exorbitant, the directors and ownership wouldn’t give the okay for this move if it wasn’t feasible. Whatever is given up now will quickly be recouped by Ronaldo’s star power, and will hopefully result in glory on all fronts for Juventus. This type of move shows the forward thinking of the club and new direction it’s being steered in. Gone is the turmoil and disparaging time of calciopoli. The days of being a second-tier “stepping stone” stop along the way to Real Madrid, Barcelona, or the Premier League are over. Juventus is attractive enough that Ronaldo wants to play for them. The biggest star in the world is going to call Turin home.
And now, we can dine at any restaurant in the world.