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A different move for a different player: How signing Cristiano Ronaldo is a move away from Juventus’ frugal ways

The Independent logo The Independent 17/07/2018 Adam Digby
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There was a strange but fitting symmetry on show for Italian football fans this past week, Juventus announcing a deal for Cristiano Ronaldo around the same time Antonio Conte’s departure from Chelsea was confirmed. Four years earlier, the coach walked out on the Bianconeri on the second day of pre-season training, famously claiming that European success was beyond the means of the club because “you can’t eat in a €100 restaurant with only €10 in your pocket.”

Previous summers had seen the Old Lady miss out on a number of high profile targets including Sergio Aguero and Robin van Persie, with the situation so bad that even Udinese skipper Antonio Di Natale turned down the chance to join the club. At a shareholders meeting in 2014, owner and President Andrea Agnelli was pressed on the failure to sign a big name player, only to respond by saying “one day, we will be able to sign players like Cristiano Ronaldo.”

a man standing in front of a fence © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Clearly that time has now arrived, Monday becoming “#CR7Day” in Turin as the Portuguese megastar’s move was made official. Taking and passing a medical, he was then shown around the new training ground, cutting an immaculate figure in a charcoal grey suit and black shirt as he was introduced to his new team-mates.

Yet not only does the €112m handed to Real Madrid set a new club record and shatter the previous high mark for a 33-year-old – dwarfing the £17m Manchester City reportedly paid for Claudio Bravo – but it is also completely out of character for the Italian giants who have never shelled out huge fees on a proven star in this manner.

Portuguese ace Ronaldo salutes his fans as he arrives to undergo medical checks at the Juventus stadium in Turin, Italy, Monday, July 16, 2018. © AP Portuguese ace Ronaldo salutes his fans as he arrives to undergo medical checks at the Juventus stadium in Turin, Italy, Monday, July 16, 2018. Of all the previous superstar players to pull on the famous black and white stripes, none have been viewed as the best in the world when they arrived, even the brilliant French duo of Michel Platini and Zinedine Zidane reaching their pinnacle while playing for Juve rather than before it. The fact that the latter of that duo was signed from Bordeaux for just over £3m in 1996 – the same year Alan Shearer joined Newcastle for five times that fee – speaks volumes of his standing at the time.

The grin on current boss Massimiliano Allegri’s face as he shook hands with Ronaldo was unmissable, and unlike his predecessor he could not accuse Juve of failing to invest the sums needed to deliver Champions League glory. Of the ten most expensive signings the club has ever made, seven are in the current squad, with the other three – Gianluigi Buffon, Lilian Thuram and Pavel Nedved – all landing back in 2001.

Even more than the transfer fee however, the salary that Ronaldo will receive is what truly marks this out as such a departure from Juve’s usual business practice. Particularly during the current era, director general Beppe Marotta has worked within strict parameters, his adherence to the wage structure unquestionably a factor in the high profile departures of Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba and Kingsley Coman.

The entire wage bill for last season’s 25-man squad came to a total of €150.6m according to the Italian website Calcio e Finanza, with top earners Dybala and Higuain earning €7-7.5m per year after tax, yet Ronaldo’s four-year contract will reportedly see him paid €30m per year.

That is a staggering financial commitment, one that was only possible thanks to a hastily arranged shareholders meeting fronted by Agnelli, Marotta and sporting director Fabio Paratici. But the man himself insists he will work hard to prove he can continue to be an elite player, using his introductory press conference to send a message to those who believe the move to be a backwards step.

Related: Seven of Ronaldo's best moments in Real Madrid shirt  (90min)

“I'm not sad about leaving Real Madrid, this is a big club and with all due respect players at this stage of their careers usually go to Qatar or China,” Ronaldo told reporters. “I'm different from all the other players who think their career is over at my age. I want to show that I'm not like the others. I'm different. I feel great. It's a big challenge, it's a tough league but I'll be ready.”

Those differences have already begun to manifest themselves off the field, with one of the most telling coming last week when the Juventus share price rose by 34.8 per cent in just eight days thanks to the news the five-time Ballon d’Or winner was joining the club. Add in reports that 520,000 Ronaldo shirts were sold through Adidas and Juventus’ official outlets alone in the first 24 hours, and it is easy to see why the Bianconeri believe they will recoup large amounts of their expenditure.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited   Then there is another factor to the whole deal; attention. Ronaldo, last seen hiking up his shorts in Russia as he stood over a Portugal free kick, clearly commands it, but Juventus crave it too. Having signed a player who is a celebrity and a global icon, the club saw a major spike in their own social media following, gaining 1.4 million Instagram followers, 1.1 million Twitter followers and an extra 500,000 likes on their Facebook page over the weekend.

It shows not only the massive attraction that Ronaldo has always been, but helps plot a clear path towards Juventus climbing up the Deloitte football rich list over the next twelve months. With revenue cited as €405.7m when this year’s edition was published in April, they sat 10th but it is not difficult to imagine them quickly surpassing Liverpool (€424.2m) and Chelsea (€428.0) who were directly above them.

© Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited   Even Arsenal (€487.6m) in sixth might soon be within their sights, particularly if they can finally end what is now a 22-year wait for Champions League glory. Ronaldo has lifted the trophy four times in the last five years, responsible for ending Juve’s dream in each of the past two seasons but now hoping to help them take that last step.

“I know the competition will be tough, but we have to be calm and focused because it's not easy to win the Champions League,” he told reporters at Monday’s press conference. “Of course I want to try to help, Juventus have been one step away from it and couldn't win. Even if you get to the final it's not certain you'll win, but I hope I can be the lucky charm.”

“I'm not here on holiday, I want to make history with Juventus,” he concluded, yet the truth – thanks to the huge investment they have made in order to sign Cristiano Ronaldo – is that he already has.

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