Juventus and the Cristiano Ronaldo suggestion that became a reality

It was thought impossible for any Italian club to sign Ronaldo but Juventus are making an exception for an exceptional player

James Horncastle
Wednesday 11 July 2018 07:06
Cristiano Ronaldo's career in 60 seconds

It was the same night as Lionel Messi and Marcos Rojo saved Argentina with a dramatic late win against Nigeria at the World Cup. The eyes of the world were on Saint Petersburg. Maybe they should have been on Turin instead where Cancelo was touching down to complete his move to Juventus.

The move caused a stir in Italy. Cancelo had impressed at Inter last season. He was considered the best right-back the club has had since Maicon. But the need to respect FFP meant they were unable to make his loan from Valencia a permanent arrangement until after June 30. Juventus, crafty as ever, snuck in and made him the second most expensive defender in the club's history after Lilian Thuram.

Outside the airport Cancelo posed for pictures with a group of fans. As his agent, the sharp suited Jorge Mendes, exited the terminal, striding purposely towards a waiting car, they shouted: "Bring us Ronaldo! Bring us Ronaldo!"

A fortnight later, Juventus' president Andrea Agnelli was in Pisa boarding a private jet to fly and meet him in the Bay of Navarino on the West coast of the Peleponnese. Perhaps Mendes was listening after all. Maybe he'd already had the same idea. The story goes that while in talks with Juventus for Cancelo, Mendes asked them if they might be interested in Cristiano Ronaldo. "Impossible," they said. But Mendes persisted."It's not as impossible as you think" came the reply.

While Juventus pride themselves on being ready to capitalise on whatever opportunity the market presents the ad-hoc, fast-paced nature of the deal does not feel entirely their style. An operation of these proportions takes time and careful planning.

In January Il Corriere della Sera's Turin edition ran a story entitled "Juventus and the CR7 suggestion." It seems it was enough of a suggestion to monitor the situation closely and explore its feasibility.

But at the time Juventus' chief executive Beppe Marotta struck a realistic tone. Because of the costs involved he downplayed the prospect of Ronaldo coming to Serie A. "For Italian clubs, not just Juventus, I think it's impossible at the moment." What changed then? Ronaldo had a €1bn clause in his contract but Juventus aren't paying that figure. They are getting him for €112m, which is only slightly more than they forked out for Gonzalo Higuain two years ago.

Investing that amount in a 33-year-old defies conventional wisdom. But it's clear Juventus want to make an exception for an exceptional player. Why else would they consent to paying his €30m salary, which is four times more than Juventus' current highest earner makes. Rather than focus on the cost, Juventus are instead choosing to concentrate on the money Ronaldo will potentially make them.

Success on the pitch is one revenue-driver and it's hoped he will help Juventus, runners' up in two of the last four seasons, end a 23-year wait for the Champions League. Off the pitch Juventus believe Ronaldo can bridge the gap with elite. The Bianconeri have punched above their weight under Massimiliano Allegri. Those finals in Berlin and Cardiff where achieved despite Juventus' rank as only the 10th richest club in the world.

Ronaldo's capture is a ringing endorsement of the Juve project (Getty )

Held back by Serie A, the club has rebranded itself in an effort to transcend these constraints. Ronaldo represents the next phase in their expansion. If Juventus can leverage and monetise his celebrity, as exemplified in Ronaldo's 318.3m followers on social media, attracting new commercial partnerships and re-negotiating existing ones then this is a risk worth taking to grow the business.

Ronaldo is already making an impact. Juventus' share price increased by 33% last week while season tickets sales, which were expected to be slow after a 30% price hike, are now picking up pace as Ronaldo fever grips Turin.

Zinedine Zidane denies Cristiano Ronaldo 'crisis' is behind his departure

For Ronaldo Juve offer the chance to add a new layer to his legacy. He can match Clarence Seedorf's achievement of winning the Champions League with three different clubs and join Paco Gento on six titles.

Closing this deal is a stunning indicator of how far Juventus have come under Agnelli. Ronaldo's decision to choose them is a huge endorsement of their project, which has taken even greater shape this summer. The team reported for pre-season on Monday at the club's bespoke J Medical centre and moved into a new training ground adjacent to the Allianz Stadium in an area known as Continassa but is now referred to as the J Village. The club's offices have been relocated to a reclaimed 17th century farmstead next door and there is an international school, a cinema and a hotel due to open.

Moving to Juventus is no longer the tough sell it was when Agnelli first became president eight years ago. Players like Antonio Di Natale turned the Old Lady down and Marotta resorted to loaning the likes of Niklas Bendtner and Nicolas Anelka to help out in attack. But now look at La Signora. She has attracted a player with a claim to be the best in the world. A five-time Ballon d'Or winner to add to those of Omar Sivori, Michel Platini, Paolo Rossi, Roby Baggio, Zinedine Zidane and Fabio Cannavaro.

Italy's sports dailies are calling it "the deal of the century". A "gift" for Juventus' fans and Serie A as a league, which is weighing the pros of greater interest and more appeal with the con of perhaps being even more one-sided. Overall though the reaction has been more or less the same as that bizarre acceptance speech Ronaldo gave at the Ballon d'Or ceremony a few years ago. "SIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII"

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