(BLOOMBERG, AFP, REUTERS) - Cristiano Ronaldo may no longer be officially the best footballer in Europe. But the 33-year-old's social media stardom suggests he could hold the key to Serie A giants Juventus closing the gap on their wealthier rivals, according to one analyst.
Instagram's most-followed person, who was named runner-up to former Real Madrid teammate Luka Modric at Monday's Ballon d'Or awards, could treble the Italian club's shirt sales by 2022, while spurring a 60 per cent increase in annual sponsorship revenue from their deals with the likes of Adidas, said Banca IMI analyst Alberto Francese.
The bank, which also provides corporate services to Juventus, upgraded its rating on the stock to "buy" from "hold" in a client note titled "Ronaldomics" on Wednesday (Dec 8), while doubling its price target to €1.40 a share. The shares jumped 9.3 per cent, the most in a month, on rumours that it will be included in the benchmark FTSE-Mib stock index.
But investors be warned: Instagram fame may not be eternal.
"Should Cristiano Ronaldo's current social media popularity begin to fade, this could undermine the commercial potential on which Juventus is now capitalising," Francese added.
The stock of Juventus will be included in the index, which groups 40 top shares in all, from Dec 27, the Milan stock exchange said. It was first listed in December 2001 and remained little traded until the arrival of Ronaldo from Real Madrid before the start of this season.
The shares were around €0.64 mid-year and jumped as high as €1.80 in September only to fall back. At Wednesday's close, the stock was quoted at €1.20, giving the iconic club a market capitalisation of around €1.1 billion (S$1.71 billion).
With Juventus challenging for an eighth consecutive title, the odds appear to be stacked against Inter Milan for Friday's Derby d'Italia in Turin. Juventus have opened an eight-point lead at the top and dropped only two points in their first 14 games.
Bolstered by the signing of Ronaldo, their progress has been relentless and the second half of the season threatens to turn into a one-horse race.
Inter were seen as possible challengers to Juve's dominance at the start of the season but, despite at one point winning seven games in a row, have paid dearly for their inconsistency and are 11 points behind in third.
Even at this stage of the season, it seems their only hope is give a helping hand to second-placed Napoli by taking points off Juve.
Inter's recent record in the fixture is equally demoralising, with only two wins in the 16 league meetings since winning their last Serie A title in 2010 under Jose Mourinho. Inter are still smarting from their last meeting in April when they led 2-1 at San Siro with five minutes left, only to lose 3-2. That win practically sealed last season's title for Juventus.
But in the previous match, Inter coach Luciano Spalletti could claim a moral victory as he outsmarted rival Massimiliano Allegri in a 0-0 draw at the Juventus stadium. The duels between the pair are invariably close and fascinating and their nine previous meetings on the touchline have produced fours wins for Allegri, three for Spalletti and two draws.
When they first crossed paths in 2008, Allegri was still an inexperienced coach with Cagliari and Spalletti had already established himself at Roma.
There is a mutual admiration between the pair with Spalletti admitting that he voted for Allegri in the recent Italian coach of the year award, which Allegri won.
"I voted for him because he is a great coach, it is difficult to find someone who stays on the same bench for so many years and wins everything he has won," said Spalletti.
"It's a difficult match, a fascinating and wonderful one against a great side with a lot of technical quality," said Allegri. "We are facing a team with great technical value. It's the game of the year because it's the Derby d'Italia and that's always one of the toughest there is - it's five out of five on the difficulty scale."