Blog Written by Jordan Elgott (@JElgott):
As the transfer window gets into full swing, one club continues to dominate the headlines year after year. Juventus, often not thought of as ‘big players’ in terms of the financial side of the game, are consistently one of the most active teams during the off-season. Whilst they aren’t always the ones doing the buying, Juventus have as big a say as any club when it comes to the big money deals. This is because the most sought after players in the world, often reside in Turin. As the Italian giants look set to make an uncharacteristically expensive purchase, by signing Gonzalo Higuain from rivals, Napoli, let’s look back at how they’ve managed to secure their status as ‘kings’ of the transfer market.
It all starts at the very top of the club, where the owners of ‘The Old Lady’ have implemented a refreshingly traditional philosophy when it comes to transfer market dealings. The Agnelli family have owned the Turin-based club since 1923, and despite their estimated $15 billion fortune, have been reluctant to invest vast quantities of their own money. One component of their business model involves buying players with high potential for relatively cheap fees, and then selling them on for much larger fees - allowing for any profit made to be reinvested into the squad. In an era of football where teams feel compelled to spend extraordinary sums in fear of being left behind, Juve have stuck to their principles. This extract, taken directly from the club’s official website, epitomises the club’s strategy perfectly.
“Juventus also strives to maintain stable relationships with its shareholders by creating profits through the development of the Juventus brand and enhancement of sporting organisation. The main sources of revenue emerge from the exploitation of sports events, the Juventus brand and the image of the first team.”
There is a blaringly obvious example of the success of ‘the Juventus model’, a player who has been drawing attention from all over the world this summer: Paul Pogba. Juve signed the skilful French midfielder for just £800,000 when he was 19 years old. Now, at the age of 23, Pogba has the world at his feet. The club who let him go for virtually nothing, Manchester United, look likely to buy him back for a world record fee, which would surge past the £100 million mark. Irrespective of the world record deal which Pogba will command, he wouldn’t be that big of a miss for Juventus, as they have already replaced him with a player who is just as good, and for a fraction of the price. The signing of Bosnian playmaker, Miralem Pjanic, was completed a few weeks ago at a cost of just £25.4 million. Here is how the two compare, with Pjanic coming out on top in key areas.
Juventus have made this a very good habit in years gone by; signing numerous important first team players in cut-price deals. In 2013, they signed Argentinian forward, Carlos Tevez from Manchester City for just £6.75 million. During his short, but very sweet stay in Turin, Tevez netted 50 goals in 95 games and helped guide The Old Lady to their first Champions League final since 2003. Arguably one of the best signings in the club’s history is Andrea Pirlo. Juve picked up the Italian wizard on a free transfer from rivals A.C. Milan in 2011. Letting Pirlo leave turned out to be an absolutely abysmal decision by the Rossoneri, as Il Maestro guided Juventus to four successive Scudetti before leaving to join New York City FC in 2015. Pirlo played alongside Arturo Vidal in midfield, a player who turned out to be another bargain, as Juve picked up the Chilean for £9.38 million from Bayer Leverkusen. Vidal went on to become one of the most sought after players in Europe, before eventually returning to Germany with Bayern Munich, earning Juventus a tidy profit of £18 million.
Whilst the Bianconeri have at times struggled to hold on to their most prized assets, such as those mentioned above, some of their most important current players have been signed for relative ‘peanuts’ in today’s market. Andrea Barzagli has been a constant rock in the Juventus defence since he signed for the club from Wolfsburg, for a staggeringly low fee of £225,000. Barzagli’s defensive partner, Giorgio Chiellini, is another player who has proved to be great value for money. He has been at the club for 11 years, having signed for £5.48 million from Fiorentina. Over that time, he has played in both Serie A and Serie B, and is widely regarded as a Juventus club legend. Leonardo Bonucci was signed in 2009 for roughly £12.5 million, taking the total cost of Juventus’ rock solid central defence to a measly £18.2 million.
To put the Bianconeri’s transfer dealings into perspective, Manchester City flop, Eliaquim Mangala, cost The Blues over double the amount that Juventus spent on their three world-class centre-backs combined. Other notably cheap signings include Patrice Evra (£1.5 million), Sami Khedira (free transfer), Dani Alves (free transfer) and Claudio Marchisio (free transfer as a youth team player). The success of Juve’s cunning transfer team should not be understated, as they have played a huge part in bringing success to the club, since their run of five successive Scudetti since 2011-2012.
As Juve now prepare to smash their transfer record for Gonzalo Higuain, history suggests that there isn’t much chance of the Argentine flopping. Whilst Higuain will be far and away Juventus’ most expensive signing in their history, he will merely be the icing on top of a very well prepared cake.
Even when Juventus ‘splash out’ on a transfer, very rarely does it turn out not to be a good deal. The most recent example of this occurred last year when the club bought Argentinian forward, Paulo Dybala, for £23.4 million from Palermo. In the modern game, this could actually be considered a relatively cheap deal for an exciting prospect, like Paulo. He scored 18 goals and provided nine assists in his first season in Turin, and could easily be sold for double what Juve paid for him, even after just one season with the club.
Going back much further, Gianluigi Buffon joined the Bianconeri in 2001 in a world record deal at the time for a goalkeeper (£32.6 million). Upon his arrival in Turin, Buffon said, “Juventus are a very big team and I am sure we are going to win lots of trophies.” Now, 15 years down the line, it can be said that Buffon wasn’t wrong. Since joining, the Italian stopper has won seven Scudetti, five Supercoppas, the UEFA Cup, and the 2006 World Cup with Italy. Buffon has certainly proved to be value for money.
The financial powerhouses of the game - Manchester City, Manchester United, Barcelona and Real Madrid - should all be taking a leaf out of Juventus’ book. The Old Lady manage to consistently purchase world-class players for incredibly low fees, a refreshing change in an era where overspending in football has become the norm. In the 2015 Champions League final against Barcelona, the cost of Juventus’ starting eleven was approximately £86 million, the same amount which will be the initial fee in the sale of Paul Pogba. The way in which the club have managed to balance their levels of spending and their success is unprecedented in the modern game and for this reason alone, they deserve their status as ‘kings’ of the transfer market.