In the age of Moneyball, the Old Lady have pulled off the best value for money deals and hold their own at the top of the European game.
Talk about Neymar and teenager Mbappe’s big money move to PSG or Guardiola erecting defensive forts in noisy Manchester or Coutinho sealing his dream move to FC Barcelona, the football transfer window seems to have a buzz, aura and cost of its own. These days, clubs don’t hesitate to splash the cash in to acquire their potential target or, if not, execute plan Bs. However, some clubs catch the big fish their own way. They steal the deal with the best bargain and that too, under everyone’s eyes. Whether you call it some kind of tactical ingenuity or management’s decision making sagacity, they sense a player’s abilities and make the gamble.
In recent times, Juventus FC have grabbed the world’s attention by implementing a rather unorthodox yet successful transfer policy. The Italian football giants are acquiring some gems of the game as per Bosman ruling (free transfer) for some time now. More importantly, these players went on to become a vital part of the team and largely contributed to where they stand today.
The fact that Juventus won six consecutive Serie A titles since 2011 and have reached the UCL finals twice in the last three years speak volumes of the club’s farsightedness and elegantly smart transfer activities. Although they don’t shy away from making those big money moves but the super wealthy owners are kind-of reluctant to invest their own fortunes and like to stick to the club motto:
“Juventus is a professional football club which is listed on the stock exchange and is one of the most famous and revered teams both in Italy and internationally. Juventus also strives to maintain stable relationships with its shareholders by creating profits through the development of the Juventus brand and enhancement of sporting organization.
The main sources of revenue emerge from the exploitation of sports events, the Juventus brand and the image of the first team.”
Giuseppe “Beppe” Marotta has been the architect of Juventus’ renaissance. After taking over as the Executive Director of the club, Marotta lost no time in reshaping the club and oversaw all transfer activities alongside the Bianconeri thinktank.
Pirlo joined Juventus after Milan deemed him as surplus
In the summer of 2011, Milan manager Massimiliano Allegri deemed a fit-again 30-year old Andrea Pirlo as surplus to the club’s requirements. But a refurbished and success hungry Juventus had other ideas. Marotta made the gamble and brought the talented midfielder to Turin on a free transfer. This move, eventually, turned out to be a huge hit as the midfield magician helped the Bianconeri win four consecutive Scudettos, the Copa Italia and reach a UCL final after 12 years. A small extract from Andrea Pirlo’s biography ‘I Think, Therefore I Play’ talks about his first meeting with Antonio Conte, who played his own, immense part in the renaissance of the Bianconeri. Undoubtedly, Pirlo was the magnet of the Juve line up and helped the “Old Lady” climb up the ladders in search of its lost glory.
Later in his autobiography, Pirlo wrote about his last moments in Milan. “We never discussed money that afternoon in the spring of 2011, never. …… I just wanted to be considered important, at the centre of a project and not a player heading for the scrap yard.”
The trio of “Pirlo-Pogba-Vidal” inspired a formidable Juve midfield
All this while, Beppe Marotta was busy sharpening his shrewd tactical tools rather than relishing on the club’s success. He managed to add Paul Pogba (in 2012) and Fernando Llorente (in 2013) to the club’s roster. The promising Manchester United academy graduate left Old Trafford after talks between his agent and Sir Alex Ferguson fell and instead, bolstered the Juve midfield with the likes of Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal. The addition of Llorente added more firepower to the side which otherwise lacked that killer instinct and often looked blunt up-front.
Although Juve had earlier tried and tested Alessandro Matri and Nicklas Bendtner, but, the Spaniard formed such a lethal attacking partnership with Argentine Carlos Tevez that they began to draw comparisons with the club’s iconic 1960’s strike duo of John Charles and Omar Sivori.
Adding more flare in their attack, the Italian giants wasted no time in landing a 19-yr old French winger Kingsley Coman in 2014 who was available for free. The talented PSG academy graduate slipped out of PSG’s hands after the expiration of his contract. With extraordinary pace and long-range shooting abilities, any club would have wanted to lure him to join their ranks but Juve proved their expertise once again when it came to deals for free.
Dani Alves joined Sami Khedira at Juventus
Juve had to deal with a double heartbreak when Arturo Vidal and Andrea Pirlo left the club in tandem, leaving the midfield uncovered. Beppe Marotta, yet again, worked his magic and snapped up an out-of-favour Real Madrid midfielder and World Cup winner in Sami Khedira as a free agent. Since joining the Italian champions, the German central midfielder has become a key figure at the club, winning a League and Cup double in each season.
In a similar manner, Marotta grabbed another big fish from yet another La Liga giant – this time bringing in the versatile Brazilian right-back Dani Alves who was forced to leave Barcelona due to ‘giant egos’ in the club hierarchy. “Things changed at a club level, and as time went on, I always seemed to be the one in the firing line. ‘Dani is the one who has to go,’ they would say. I just got tired of it.” he said. Alves, who was regarded as ‘an alien’ with ‘surreal level’ of gameplay by his teammates, helped Juve reach the UCL final in 2017, the club’s second final in three years.
In 2016, Manchester United came back searching for their talented academy youngster Paul Pogba, who they once let go on a free transfer. By then, the French midfielder had proven himself to the world with his extraordinary talent and bag full of trickery. The Red Devils were left with no option, but pay a hefty sum of £89.3 million to the Turin lockers – a world record transfer fee at that time.
Upon his return back to Manchester, Pogba said, “The only problem, maybe, I had, was that I wanted to play. Maybe for him [Sir Alex Ferguson] it was too early. For me it was too late – I was ready – and that’s it. …. I will always respect him and I hope to meet him again. …… I left because I wanted to play and I wanted to show the world, show United, that I was ready to play and motivated to play. This comeback shows that I left United but part of my head was still here.”
It won’t be unfair to say that Juve failed to utilize a bright prospect in Kingsley Coman. Bayern Munich enquired about the winger and signed him on a 2-year loan before inking a permanent deal worth €28 million. In hindsight, it is befitting to co-relate how Juve overshadowed the expense of big money signings like Gonzalo Higuain and Miralem Pjanic, with the huge bounty they received by selling hot cakes in Pogba and Coman who were once mere free agents.
Just as Juventus prepare to sign their next player in the offing, all eyes will be on Liverpool’s Emre Can who runs out of contract next summer. The versatile German holding midfielder, who can play in several midfield roles, might opt for a switch in search of greener pastures or even stay loyal to the KOP and Jurgen Klopp.
In an era where money does the talking, all the financial powerhouses of football can definitely learn a lesson or two from Juventus’ transfer policy as the “Old Lady of Italian Football” march on to revive its lost glory.