Italian champions Juventus are aiming for top spot in Europe after pulling off what is being called the “deal of the century” to snatch superstar striker Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid.
Once the stomping ground of the likes of Zinedine Zidane and Michel Platini, the league has lacked the stardust of Spain’s La Liga and the Premier League. Ronaldo’s arrival puts all eyes on Serie A and gives Juve a chance of going all the way in Europe.
“It’s a very big signing which marks a step up for everyone at the club,” said coach Massimiliano Allegri, who has guided Juve to the last four of their seven straight league titles.
“I think that the club has done something extraordinary for Juventus and all of Italian football.”
The signing of the 33-year-old is the first time since his Brazilian namesake moved from Barcelona to Inter Milan in 1997 that an Italian club has signed a contender for the title of world’s best player, and the transfer is aimed at taking Juve to the top of the European pile.
Ronaldo has scored 120 Champions League goals, more than anyone else in the history of the competition, and won four out of the last five editions with Real.
– “New beginning ” –
“The arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo at Juve brings us back to those prestigious 80s/90s when Italy collected top players: from Zico to Falcao, from Platini to Maradona … the arrival of the five-time Ballon d’Or winner represents a new beginning,” wrote Il Messaggero on Wednesday.
Last season, Allegri also led Juventus to their fourth consecutive Italian Cup, with the double taking their Scudetto total to 34.
But they haven’t won a Champions League since 1996 and despite reaching the final in 2015 and 2017, lag way behind seven-time winners and fellow Serie A behemoth AC Milan in Europe.
Allegri has masterminded the second phase of Juve’s rebirth from the ashes of the notorious “Calciopoli” match-fixing scandal, building on the domestic dominance re-established by former Italy coach Antonio Conte between 2011-2014 and making Juve a force on the continent.
Conte famously lamented Juve’s limited spending capacity compared to the giant investments being made in clubs such as Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City, likening the chances of an Italian team getting to a Champions League final to eating at a 100-euro restaurant with 10 euros in your pocket.
Allegri showed that Juve could go toe-to-toe with the big boys, and after splashing out on domestic stars Gonzalo Higuain and Miralem Pjanic in previous seasons, the club is now flexing its muscles beyond the Alps.
“There is only one thing that this monstrous player can not afford: to lose the Champions League in his new colours,” wrote Italian daily La Repubblica on Wednesday.
– Two ’empires’ meet –
The paper says that “the repercussions of this operation are unimaginable … This is something that has never been seen before in Italy, a kind of global industrial merger” between “the Juve empire, supported by a holding company in Exor that generated 1.4 billion euros in profits in 2017” and Ronaldo’s empire, “which is an incredible advertising and financial machine”.
Analysts Banca IMI claim that the arrival of Ronaldo will strengthen the Juventus brand globally.
They claim that “Juventus will benefit from increased ticket sales, which we estimate at an additional 5-7 million euros per season, and in general all brand-related activities”, such as merchandising, marketing and sponsorship on a scale that is difficult to estimate.
“Since yesterday, football television rights are theoretically worth 30 percent more. It’s a pity that they have already been sold (until 2021), but there are means of recovering,” wrote La Repubblica.
“Just think of the next Italian Supercup to be played in the Middle East: before it was just an insignificant cup, but with CR7 there it’s an event you buy unseen,” concludes the newspaper.
Turin-based daily La Stampa claimed that “everyone will watch us” now that Ronaldo is on his way.
“Ronaldo will offer great things to Juve and will increase the overall level of the championship,” said World Cup-winning goalkeeper Dino Zoff in the same paper.
“It could be good for everyone. With Ronaldo, all eyes will be on us and now the whole of Serie A can regain the lost ground.”