Displayed supporter of an enlarged Champions League before preferring the private “Super League” project formalized on Monday, Andrea Agnelli is a leader hailed for the revolution led to Juventus but hated by some as the promoter of formatted football for the powerful.
The reshaped competition, which UEFA is due to adopt on Monday, is “very, very close to an ideal Champions League”, recently said the Italian, then president of the Association of European Clubs (ECA), and as such spokesperson for the biggest clubs. A new format on which he had actively worked before announcing in the night from Sunday to Monday that Juventus finally joined eleven other big clubs to launch a “Super League”, a private competition dedicated to supplant the C1, true declaration war at UEFA.
Agnelli resigned in the wake of the presidency of the ECA, in a hell of a drama. This will not help to restore his image to those who already saw him as a leader putting the interests of the richest before that of football. In a scathing editorial, the French sports daily L’Equipe had described in February Agnelli as “one of the men who does the most harm to the idea of the universality of this game”. The British Guardian also lambasted the boss of Juventus and his fight to “guarantee more money to those who are already rich, regardless of whether they are well or poorly managed”.
From “Fordism” to “Globalization”
“Developing the Champions League: this has always been his fixed idea, first of all to increase its economic value,” Marco Iaria, journalist at Gazzetta dello sport, told AFP, pointing to Agnelli’s admiration for football American and his “Superbowl”. However, until now, Agnelli had never publicly defended a closed “Superleague”.
Born in Turin 45 years ago, he trained in marketing through several experiences in Italy and abroad. This bushy-eyed, dark-bearded entrepreneur has been putting his vision of “globalized” football into practice at Juve since 2010. Appointed at the head of a club still shaken by the Calciopoli affair and the demotion in second division (in 2006), Umberto Agnelli’s son totally revolutionized the “Old Lady” by diversifying activities (hotel, museum), developing sponsorship, grooming the logo to make it more “universal” with a simple “ J ”. The stock market value of the club has exploded.
“Giovanni Agnelli (his uncle, former boss of Fiat, Editor’s note) was the embodiment of Fordism applied to football, Andrea Agnelli is the embodiment of globalization in sport, in the wake of Fiat which is totally globalized”, observes for AFP historian Giovanni De Luna, author of a book on the history of the club. “Whether this future is for the good or not of football, I do not know, but Agnelli is totally in this neo-football,” he adds.
On the ground too, Juventus flew to Italy with their nine consecutive titles (2012 to 2020). The peak of this strategy was reached in 2018 with the recruitment of the five-time Ballon d’Or Cristiano Ronaldo. Even if, three years later, opinions diverge on the balance sheet, while Juve failed in C1 and is about to be dethroned in Italy.
“Operation Ronaldo was above all a merger between two brands. This has brought significant results with titles but, in my opinion, it has somewhat unbalanced the internal balances within Juve, ”remarks Giovanni De Luna. Economically, this “operation remains good, because it crowned a strategy which aims to make Juventus a global brand, thanks to the notoriety of Ronaldo”, estimates for its part Giovanni Palazzi, director of StageUp, consulting firm in the business Sport.
A “global brand” that Agnelli intends to continue to develop through this “Super League”, at a time when his Juve is suffering both economically, with accounts sealed by the coronavirus crisis, and sportingly, with the daring bet of launch on the bench the novice Andrea Pirlo which does not bear fruit.