The entire Juventus financial scandal explained: Why the Bianconeri have been docked 15 points
So, here we go again then.
Some 17 years after Calciopoli, Juventus find themselves at the centre of a scandal that has the potential to devastate the club, and rock Italian football to its very core.
This isn't about influencing match officials, though. This is about 'plusvalenza', and quite a bit more.
Indeed, on Friday evening, the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) dramatically announced that the Bianconeri had been docked 15 points for "financial irregularities" and "false accounting" in relation to past transfer dealings.
The decision means Massimiliano Allegri's side suddenly dropped from third in the Serie A standings, to 10th.
Their already slim hopes of winning the Scudetto are undoubtedly over but they also face an uphill task to finish in the top four, given they're now 12 points behind fourth-placed Lazio.
Failure to qualify for the Champions League would have serious sporting and economic consequences for Juve, who have been beset by financial issues in recent years.
However, there is still a long way to run in this latest saga, as GOAL outlines below...
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What is plusvalenza?
The key to understanding this whole affair is plusvalenza, or capital gains, which is basically the profit made on a transfer.
Say, for example, Juventus sign a player for €100 million on a five-year contract. They would amortise the cost of the player's registration rights over the duration of his contract, most likely spreading the payments out equally over five years. In short, the player's amortised value would be €20m per year (€100m divided by five).
So, if Juve then sold that player after three years for €60m, they would make a capital gain of €20m on his registration rights (€60m minus the remaining €40m in amortised value).
Why are capital gains important in football?
Because they count directly towards a club's annual profits, and this is now of greater importance than ever before because of the introduction of UEFA's Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations more than a decade ago.
As we all know, clubs' balance sheets are under intense scrutiny these days, and those found to have broken the rules can face severe punishments.
The pressure, then, is very much on the clubs to balance their books on an annual basis.
Some clubs have reportedly resorted to inflating the value of assets in order to be seen to have made a profit on certain transfers.
This is often done in the movement of young players. Academy players are homegrown, they usually arrive for free, meaning that if they are sold, the fee is pure profit.
As the price of unknown academy players can be over-inflated, it is difficult to judge their true value.
Consequently, clubs could insert players of a dubious value into swap deals or player-plus-cash transfers in order to help balance the books.
Is this only a problem in Italy?
As the Gazzetta dello Sport has previously outlined, the practice of plusvalenza is undeniably of colossal importance in Italy.
In 2018-19, the last season before Covid-19 hit, 20 Serie A clubs made a total of €699m in capital gains – more than any of the other 'Big Five' leagues.
Tellingly, that figure is also higher than the sum of money the Italian top flight made from commercial deals during the same financial year (€647m), underlining just how dependent Serie A sides are on the transfer market to turn a profit.
The Premier League, La Liga and the Bundesliga clubs are all generating far more money, as a collective, from TV rights and sponsorship agreements, than buying and selling players.
Obviously, there is absolutely nothing wrong with making profits on transfers. Issues only arise when clubs are inflating the value of players, and it is worth remembering that this remains an issue in many other domestic leagues.
The difference is that while this affair does involve clubs in other countries, it is focused on Italy, and Juventus in particular.
Why are Juventus at the centre of this scandal?
Let's begin with the best example...
In the summer of 2020, Arthur Melo moved from Barcelona to Juventus, while Miralem Pjanic went in the opposite direction.
Officially, these two deals were not connected. They were not announced as part of the same transfer.
Barcelona stated that Juve had agreed to pay an initial €72m (£63m/$78m) for Arthur, while Pjanic had been acquired for €60m (£53m/$65m).
Both clubs were, thus, in a position to post a capital gain on their outgoing player, while Juve only had to hand over €12m (£10.5m/$13m) in cash.
It was an agreement that suited both parties, but especially cash-strapped Barca as they edged closer to posting a profit before the end of the financial year.
This exchange was more about finances than football, and it was openly written about at the time.
Neither player appeared worth his respective fee, particularly in the Covid-19 affected economic climate of the time, but that was considered unimportant.
There was no threat of investigation, let alone punishment. Until now...
Essentially, four separate Italian bodies have been scrutinising transfers involving Juventus and others clubs for the past couple of years, including the Pjanic-Arthur swap, as well as a similar operation in 2019 that saw Danilo (€37m) arrive in Turin and Joao Cancelo (€65m) move to Manchester City.
In 2021, COVISOC, the supervisory commission for Serie A, began investigating "dozens" of deals of questionable player valuations and it contacted the FIGC, flagging 62 potentially inflated transfers relating to the 2018-19, 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons – 42 of which involved Juve.
COVISOC also shared its findings with the Public Prosecutor of Turin, who opened a criminal investigation in May 2021 called 'Prisma'.
CONSOB, the financial regulator responsible for monitoring the dealings of clubs quoted on the stock exchange (like Juventus), also entered the fray and that was hugely significant because the stock exchange falls under the remit of Italy's financial police, Guardia di Finanzia.
And it was they who raided Juve's training grounds and offices in November 2021 and seized documents relating to the transfers in question, which according to Sky Sport Italia and ANSA, were worth a grand total of €282m (£247m/$307m) in capital gains.
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Weren't Juve cleared of inflating transfer fees?
In April of last year, it was announced that charges had been dropped against Juventus and 10 other clubs, including four other then-members of Serie A: Napoli, Sampdoria, Genoa and Empoli.
The FIGC prosecutor had been demanding bans for both Juventus president Andrea Agnelli and his Napoli counterpart Aurelio De Laurentiis.
Indeed, it's worth noting the the most high-profile transfer to come under scrutiny was arguably that of Victor Osimhen, who moved from Lille to Napoli in 2020.
The fee, on paper at least, was €70m (£61m/$76m), but the inclusion of four Napoli players accounted for €20m (£17.5m/$22m) of the fee: goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis and three Primavera players (Claudio Manzi, Ciro Palmieri and Luigi Liguori) who never made a single appearance for Lille, calling their market value into question.
However, the whole FIGC case against a grand total of 11 clubs and 59 executives essentially collapsed because of the difficulty involved in establishing the true worth of a footballer.
Prosecutors were found to have leaned too heavily on values derived by the website, transfermarkt.com.
It's also important to remember that this affair is not without precedent.
AC Milan and city rivals Inter were both investigated for alleged financial irregularities related to capital gains in 2008 but neither club was sanctioned – again, because of the difficulty involved in determining a player's actual market value.
However, in 2018, Cesena were deducted three points for repeated infringements of the plusvalenza regulations.
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So, why did the entire Juventus board resign?
Even though the 'capital gains' case was effectively closed last year, Juve remained under investigation by CONSOB for alleged false accounting and market manipulation.
The Turin Public Prosecutor was also investigating salary payments that were supposedly deferred during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In May and June of 2020, 23 players signed agreements that would see their respective salaries reduced in a bid to cut costs during a testing period financially for clubs around the world – with games played out in empty stadiums as supporters were prevented from attending.
According to the Gazzetta dello Sport, Juventus stars were supposed to give up four months' worth of wages, but they allegedly only gave up one.
The accusation, therefore, is that the players were paid “in the black” to allow both the players and the club to avoid taxes, while statements were allegedly falsified in order to make out that the books had been balanced.
The Turin Public Prosecutor announced the completion of the 'Prisma' in October and then, on November 28, the entire board of directors resigned ahead of an extraordinary general assembly.
It's important to stress that there was no admission of guilt. The club merely stated that it was "considered to be in the best social interest to recommend that Juventus equip itself with a new board of directors to address these issues".
In a statement sent to all members of staff, outgoing president Agnelli wrote:
“When the team is not united, then that opens the way for opponents to hurt you and that can be fatal. In that moment, you must have the sharpness of mind to contain the damage: we are facing a delicate moment as a club and that unity is lost.
"Better to leave all together giving the opportunity for a new team to overturn that game."
Why did the capital gains case reopen?
Because new evidence has come to light because of the Prisma investigation.
According to widespread reports, this includes Fabio Paratici's 'black book', which allegedly contains all of the true numbers involved in the transfer deals at the centre of the affair.
It's all been claimed that the investigators have effectively unearthed admissions of guilt via wire taps involving several Juventus directors, including Agnelli and Maurizio Arrivabene.
Consequently, the FIGC prosecutor, Giuseppe Chine, appealed the previous ruling and the FIGC case was reopened in December.
This time around, only nine of the original 11 clubs were implicated, but Juve remained the focus of the investigation because of the apparent weight of evidence against them, and their allegedly repeated attempts to circumvent the plusvalenza regulations.
Who has been banned and for how long?
The following former or current Juventus directors have been banned from holding office:
- Fabio Paratici: 30 months
- Maurizio Arrivabene: 24 months
- Andrea Agnelli: 24 months
- Federico Cherubini: 16 months
- Pavel Nedved: 8 months
- Enrico Vellano: 8 months
- Paolo Garimberti 8 months
- Assia Grazioli-Venier: 8 months
- Caitlin Mary Hughes: 8 months
- Danila Marilungo: 8 months
- Francesco Roncaglio: 8 months
Fabio Paratici's ban is arguably the most significant as he has been working as managing director of football at Tottenham since parting company with Juventus in 2021. As it stands, he is only banned from working in Italian football, but the FIGC have asked both UEFA and FIFA to support their rulings. Spurs, then, are reportedly trying to establish whether Paratici will eventually be prevented from working at any level of the game for the next two and a half years.
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How have the club responded to the ruling?
Juve are awaiting the publication of the reasons for the sanctions, which should be released inside the next 10 days. Things should become a lot clearer then.
However, the club has already confirmed its intention to launch an appeal, to CONI's (the Italian Olympic Committee) Collegio di Garanzia, the country's highest sporting court.
Juve's lawyers claimed that sanctions "constitute a clear disparity of treatment against Juventus and its managers compared to any other company or member".
Furthermore, the morning after the news broke, Juve's new president, Gianluca Ferrero, who formally succeeded Agnelli at the helm last week, and director general Maurizio Scanavino spoke to the players at the club's Continassa training facility.
According to several news outlets, the squad was told, "In the face of injustice, we need to be united and ensure everyone does their job.
"We will defend the club in the right places and you will defend it on the field by winning points.
"Today, more than ever, you represent millions of fans around the world."
How have the Italian press reacted?
The media have also been left in a state of shock by the FIGC ruling. It had been widely thought that Juve were in serious trouble – the resignation of the entire board was an ominous sign – but the severity of the sentence still took many by surprise.
Indeed, it is worth noting that earlier on Friday Chine had only called for a nine-point penalty for Juve; instead, they were docked 15 points.
The Gazzetta dello Sport called it a "sensational sentence", above a headline which red 'Juve stung!'
The pink paper offered quite a measured take on the affair, though, arguing that if Juve were guilty of the crimes in question, they deserved to be punished.
It was a very different story in Tuttosport, the Turin-based sports daily which called the ruling "Crazy stuff! Juve -15: Injustice is done!"
They particularly wanted to know why only Juve had been punished, given it should, in theory, take two clubs to inflate a transfer fee.
Remember, Sampdoria, Empoli, Genoa, Parma, Pisa, Pescara, Pro Vercelli and Novara were all absolved of any wrongdoing and this was a theme picked up by former Italy international Antonio Cassano.
“Look, I rarely defend Juve on any level, because they play horrible football, but in this case I am on the Bianconeri’s side," he told BoboTV. "That means if they made a mistake, it is right that they pay, even going into Serie C.
"But it has to be the same for everyone. If that happens, it’s not just Juve who are going to be punished, it’s going to be a tidal wave through Serie A, B and C.
"Obviously, Juve warrant 50 pages in the newspapers, whereas the other clubs are all little sidebars. Let us not kid ourselves that only Juve did this: if they did this, then other clubs did too and they must all be punished."
However, it has been claimed by financial experts in both the Gazzetta and Il Messaggero that Juve have been deemed a special case by the FIGC prosecutor, in that they, unlike the other clubs investigated, deliberately and quite cynically manipulated their accounts to order to gain a competitive edge over their rivals.
Again, though, only when the FIGC fully explain the sanctions will we have a better idea of why only Juve have been punished.
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What has Allegri said?
Allegri's press conference ahead of Sunday's Serie A clash with Atalanta was unsurprisingly dominated by questions about the 15-point deduction.
He did his best to avoid being drawn on the fairness of the penalty, preferring instead to call on his players to focus on hauling themselves back up the standings.
“Tomorrow is an important game, it’s a special match after what happened yesterday," he admitted.
"We all have to pull together even more, continue to work with a low profile and think only about what happens on the pitch.
"These judicial matters concern the club, and there will be an appeal.
"We must do our duty because the final verdict will be in two months and we must not let ourselves find ourselves in two months with regrets for not having done what we had to do.
"We also went through this two months ago with the resignation of the board.
“We come out of these unforeseen events stronger as individuals, and above all else with commitment and determination to do what we have to do, which is to win points on the pitch."
He also dismissed the notion of quitting Juve for a job elsewhere should the 15-point ban be upheld and end up denying the club a top-four finish.
“I am the Juventus coach and I will remain so, unless they send me away," he said.
“At Juventus everyone has their own responsibility depending on their role. I am very sorry on a personal level for Cherubini, Agnelli, Nedved, Arrivabene and Garimberti.
"Besides the professional aspect, there is also the human one that goes beyond that."
Have the players commented?
Leonardo Bonucci declared on Instagram, “Juventus are like a seven-headed dragon: cut one off and another will always emerge. She never gives up. Her strength is in her environment.”
Interestingly, Dusan Vlahovic, who was among the first to be linked with a transfer, struck a similarly defiant tone.
“We are not afraid of losing a few points," the Serbian striker posted on social media. "We are not afraid of rolling our sleeves up. We are not afraid of our opponents. We must not be afraid of anything.
“Because when they think we have fallen, we’ll get back up stronger than ever. This is us, this is Juventus.”
What happens now?
As already mentioned, we're still waiting to hear the FIGC's explanation of the severity of the sanctions, before Juve inevitably appeal.
It is worth clarifying, though, that the Collegio di Garanzia, can't actually overturn the 15-point deduction or any of the bans. It can only, if it sees fit, send the case back for review in the event of any procedural or legal violations.
There's also the very real possibility that things could get even worse for Juve, and those at the centre of the scandal.
The most serious allegations of wrongdoing are contained in the 1400-page Prisma criminal case investigated by the Turin Public Prosecutor, which focuses on alleged breaches of "the loyalty of sporting competition" and, far more significantly, false accounting related to salaries.
If Juve are found guilty of the latter, that could land them in very hot water with UEFA, and their FFP regulations, putting the club at risk of a European ban.
There is also a risk that this could really blow up and other clubs will soon be dragged into the affair, given Juve have done so many deals with so many different parties over the past few years.
As Allegri stated, though, he and his players can't afford to get bogged down in the legal proceedings.
Right now, they have a season to salvage, starting with Sunday's must-win meeting with Atalanta in Turin.
"The team knows very well what needs to be done," he said on Saturday. "We need to win games. Nothing has changed for us."
The same cannot be said, though, for their employers, or indeed Italian football as a whole. This really could be the most impactful scandal to hit Serie A since Calciopoli.