Juventus are planning to invest €300m into the club as they look to bridge the gap with the elite European clubs while hoping to find ‘the new Cristiano Ronaldo.’
The Bianconeri have undergone a dramatic shift in policy and approach in recent years which started with their signing of CR7 in the summer of 2018.
In a lengthy article published today, Gazzetta Dello Sport journalist Marco Iaria explains that Juve are looking to make a sizeable investment in the club with a view to signing a ‘new, younger Ronaldo’, not with the same ability to shift the economic-commercial balance in the transfer from one club to another, because CR7 is unique in this, but with the potential to do so in the medium-to long term.
This is the identikit that Juventus has drawn in their bid to make a efinitive assault on the global football elite: The operation is the gem of the 2019-24 development plan which has the ultimate goal of transforming Juventus club into a media company fully integrated into the competitive scenario of sport and international entertainment.
For this reason the board of directors proposed a capital increase of €300 million to the shareholders’ meeting on Thursday, to be finalized in the first few months of 2020: a very heavy injection of money aimed at investments, with a view to widespread growth at an industrial level.
This means that maintaining high levels of competitiveness in the field (ie reinforcements of the squad) will have to go hand in hand with the strengthening of all extra-sport activities.
Under the presidency of Andrea Agnelli, who took office in May 2010, Juventus have changed their skin after the events of Calciopoli: eight league titles in a row, two Champions League finals, turnover increased from €156 million in 2010-11 to €494 in 2018-19 and the club’s conversion into a company with its own stadium and citadel and a staff of 885 people.
Despite the significant changes, it’s not considered enough because the context in which the Bianconeri now compete is worldwide, not national.
It is a highly competitive scenario, within a segment (that of entertainment in a broad sense) in which the challenge is not only between teams with a global brand but also with other forms of attraction for the public, especially for young people, such as e-sports.
The Cristiano Ronaldo operation was part of this and from the first season, it was already a multiplier of resources and opportunities (1 million shirts sold, €58 million more revenues propitiated by the Portuguese, worldwide fanbase grown by 38 million according to Nielsen) In addition to increasing the bargaining power of the company, with high expectations for the renewal of the main sponsorship with Jeep and for other commercial spaces, in a global package sales strategy.
The expansive phase started with CR7 is repositioning Juventus in a higher segment of the market, against a rise in net financial debt to €463 million. Management had to choose between these two paths: wait a couple of years and manage the debt, or ask for a capital increase to continue the development phase.
The second route was chosen, also because the top world clubs run towards a billion euros in turnover. The €300 million will be used to bridge the gap with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United and make the final qualitative leap. That’s why this is an attacking manoeuvre, not a defense one, calibrated to a European dimension (think of the recent refinancing of Tottenham to €720 million).
The Juventus directors consider the debt under control, by virtue of a ratio with Ebitda (gross operating margin) of less than 3 and a player’s and real estate assets recorded in the balance sheet for €600 million.
The capital increase will ease the net financial position by €300 million and provide flexibility for new investments: Between President Andrea Agnelli and Exor chairman John Elkann there is a harmony of views, on the other hand the market value of the club (capitalization on the Stock Exchange) went from €160 million in 2010 to the current €1.4 billion.
In any case, the high level of spending (€477 million between salaries and depreciation) imposes cost efficiency, through a saving of €40 million upstream of the total salary (not immediately, but in the future, the second team could be exploited to integrate a roster of 17-18 players).
A ‘Younger Ronaldo’
Now another “bait” player will be needed, alongside Ronaldo, in the belief that the so-called Z generation tends to fall in love with a champion rather than the team. The profile could respond to iconic champions such as Mbappé, Neymar, Pogba, but the recent explosion by João Felix shows that the scenario (football and trade together) is fluid.
Presumably the assault is a given for the summer session of 2020. The development, however, will be organic and will invest all the fields. The increase in commercial revenues will pass through the allocation of the right resources for the global dissemination of the brand: after Hong Kong, they will open an office in the United States, in general it will aim to expand the catchment area by going beyond football fans (selling casual clothes and other high quality Juve branded products, perhaps distributed by large retailers).
Then the further real estate development: a small stadium for the Under 23s and women to complete the redevelopment of the Continassa; new hospitality and innovation spaces at the Allianz Stadium, in order to further increase the proceeds from matches.
Juventus – now fourth for followers on social media, around tenth place in terms of revenues, fifth in the Uefa ranking – has managed to maintain substantially the same growth rate as the top three in the world in recent years but the spread in turnover remains high: €341 million more for Barcelona, + €263 for Real, + €217 for United.
Bridging this gap is very difficult also because of the different systems: the very rich Premier League collects from TV rights two and a half times the amount from Serie A, the two big La Liga clubs are seen to recognize an extra prize for the promotion of Spanish football abroad, while Juve lost €10 million with the new television distribution.
Without forgetting the different broadcasts: in Asia the audience of an English club is 5 times higher than that of the Bianconeri. The plan with a view on 2024, however, is to remain attached to the train of the first three and to become a global media platform when the next “disruption” takes place, that is, when the subjective contents to be offered daily to the young generations, beyond the 90 minutes of the game, they will also have a monetary value and will equip a few, large clubs with new talent to grow.
It is an ambitious and risky project, because it cannot be done without the maximum sports performances and the continuous presence in the spring of the Champions League and also because nobody knows the commercial and television contours of the football of the future.
But it is the only possible way to try and take the big leap.