News analysis

CR7 will transform Juve's fortunes both on & off the pitch

Cristiano Ronaldo described it in matter-of-fact terms as "the moment to begin a new cycle ". In Italy, the headline writers went a little bigger as they hailed Juventus' capture of the Portugal forward as "the deal of the century".

Even the club's most optimistic supporters might not have dreamed such a thing was possible at the start of this summer. A five-time Ballon d'Or winner coming to Turin? No Serie A player had even finished among the top three vote winners for that award since Kaka won it in 2007.

So much has changed in the intervening years. The prestige of Spanish football waxed just as Italian football waned. When then AC Milan owner, Silvio Berlusconi, shared his "dream" of signing Ronaldo at the start of this decade, the player responded with a politician's turn of phrase, saying that Serie A was "not the league I like the most".

Juventus were only just returning to the forefront of the domestic game. Dumped into Serie B in 2006 for their part in the Calciopoli scandal, they took six years to become champions of Italy again.

They have not looked back since, claiming seven consecutive league titles and four straight domestic doubles, as well as reaching the final of the Champions League in two of the past four years.

Such sustained success is no accident. Juventus developed a business plan and followed through, from the building of Serie A's first modern, club-owned stadium in 2010 to the rebranding with a new, social media-friendly logo last year. Above all, though, they have made superlative moves in the transfer market.

Year after year, Juventus have found value where others missed it. Andrea Pirlo, Sami Khedira and Dani Alves joined on free transfers. Striker Carlos Tevez cost an initial €9 million (S$14 million). Paul Pogba was signed and then flipped back to Manchester United four years later for a profit of roughly €70 million (once Mino Raiola's agent's fees had been deducted).

Juventus supporters posing with club shirts that have been adorned with the name and number of Cristiano Ronaldo after his €100 million (S$160 million) transfer from Real Madrid to the Italian champions on Tuesday.
Juventus supporters posing with club shirts that have been adorned with the name and number of Cristiano Ronaldo after his €100 million (S$160 million) transfer from Real Madrid to the Italian champions on Tuesday. PHOTO: REUTERS

Ronaldo had already transformed Juventus' finances before he even agreed terms. As rumours of his impending arrival increased in recent days, the club's share price soared. After a dip, those numbers have continued to rise.

How does Ronaldo fit into this picture? The total cost of his transfer from Real Madrid - with taxes and player wages included - is being reported at €340 million. A €30 million annual salary would be more than double what Juventus have been paying their previous highest earner, Gonzalo Higuain, who might well be sold to help balance the books in a summer when several other additions have already been made.

On the surface, that might seem like an impossible indulgence for a club that are expected to report a small loss on their accounts for the past season. The reality might be the exact opposite. For all their impressive growth in recent years, the concern for Juventus has always been that they would be limited by the simple fact of competing in a league whose international brand continues to lag behind those of LaLiga and the English Premier League.

Despite reaching the Champions League final last year, the club are still ranked only 10th in Deloitte's Money League, with revenues less than two-thirds the size of Manchester United, Real or Barcelona. The signing of Ronaldo is designed to change that.

You might even say that Juventus are taking a page out of Real's own play book. There were plenty who scoffed at the Spanish club's €37 million outlay on David Beckham in the summer of 2003. Florentino Perez knew he was getting a steal for a player who would bring far more than that into his club's coffers.

Ronaldo had already transformed Juventus' finances before he even agreed terms. As rumours of his impending arrival increased in recent days, the club's share price soared. Italian daily Secolo XIX noted last Thursday that the club's market valuation had risen from €665 million to €815 million - enough to cover his transfer fee. After a dip, those numbers have continued to rise .

And while Ronaldo is older now than Beckham was then, he is also a more impactful player. Ronaldo might be slowing down but he still scored 44 goals last term, including two goals and an assist against Juventus in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

Do we even need to ask how he will fit into this Juventus side? Massimiliano Allegri is an arch-pragmatist who has adapted his team countless times already during his four years in charge, continuing his team's domestic dominance despite the exits of Tevez and Pogba among others.

He is fond of telling reporters that managers can change a game by no more than five per cent. The impact of a player like Ronaldo is an awful lot greater than that.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2018, with the headline 'CR7 will transform Juve's fortunes both on & off the pitch'. Print Edition | Subscribe