Another reader's question: Is Ronaldo to Juve happening?
Preamble: I know, I know. I'm too late with this post. The thing is, I felt bad for getting a question and not answering it because I promised I would answer every question. I wrote this before the transfer was confirmed and since I didn't expect it to be wrapped up so extraordinarily quickly, I procrastinated on answering it. Anyway, I wanted to honor my promise by sharing what I thought about the deal before I found out that it was official. Besides, because I got this one so wrong, I figured it would be nice to show some humility and publish this so that people can use it to laugh at me when they see how wrong I was. Humble pie, my friends.
I recently received another question from my "Ask me anything!" thread:
Although I don't like to write very football-specific content on my blog (i.e. discussing specific players, teams, and matches) because I already do so elsewhere, I did promise that I would answer every question. And I like to think I'm a man of my word. There's a good lesson here kids: don't make promises you might not always want to keep. For those of you that don't know about what the question is referring to, it's about this summer's biggest transfer rumor in the world of football.
Arguably the world's best player and possibly one of the greatest players to ever play the game, Cristiano Ronaldo, is rumored to want to leave his current club Real Madrid to come to the club I support, Juventus. What was first laughed off as absurd media sensationalism has steadily picked up steam and actually become a credible story. It was first a joke, but it has turned out to be anything but one.
Anyway, for those not interested in these kinds of things, feel free to skip this blog post since it's quite unlike the content I usually post. Yes, there is my "What football taught me about myself and life" series, but that's more about the intersection between life and football rather than specific players and teams. In general, I leave my very specific football-related content to the Juventus SB Nation blog, so no hard feelings if you're not interested in the sport and this post.
But like I said, I promised I would answer, and a promise is a promise.
Q: "Is [Cristiano] Ronaldo to Juve happening?"
Short, but evasive answer: possibly. Long answer: as with everything in life, it's all about one thing and one thing only. Money!
There's the small matter of a transfer fee of at least €100mil euro, which could balloon to up to €130mil euro when factoring in agent fees and Real Madrid's desire to, understandably, negotiate a higher fee for one of the best players in the club's history. Then there's the slightly less small matter of Ronaldo's salary which, reportedly, is a cool €30mil euro per year net, which works out to about €60mil euro gross (hey, at least it's not as bad as LeBron James' salary!) That may not be that bad in itself, but when you consider that this figure is equal to 40% of Juventus' TOTAL annual wage bill, the transfer starts to become a bit troublesome financially.
The wildcard in all of this is Exor, the company that owns Juventus and is the holding company owned by the Agnelli family (president of Juventus). There's a nice Q&A piece on the Juventus SB Nation website about Exor's relationship with the club, which you can read here if you just scroll down a little. Basically, some suggest that Exor will step in to finance a large part of the deal, though this would be out of character based on their track record of having minimal financial involvement with Juventus in the past (i.e. a €20mil euro annual sponsorship). Again, refer to the abovementioned link for more.
However, there's yet another component to also take into account: the Financial Fair Play regulation imposed by UEFA, Europe's footballing governing body. It's a rule that was born out of the concern from the financial recklessness that caused an alarming number of bankruptcies in European club football. Basically, it forces clubs to break-even and, importantly, it seeks to prohibit "sugar daddy" billionaires from bankrolling clubs (but then turning off the tap when they get bored of their pet projects). Given that transfer already seems financially dubious, I'm quite worried about falling foul of this regulation.
But wait, there's a way out of all this... right? One thing that often (understandably) happens with monumental transfers like these is an explosion in jersey sales. Such an exciting transfer makes fans so ecstatic that they flood the club's stores to purchase jerseys of the new player. Hence, some argue that this upshot in jersey sales will bring in enough revenue to cover Ronaldo's transfer fee and/or salary.
Could that be true?
Courtesy of my fantastic friends over at the Juventus SB Nation blog (I see you, Fefu and Semperty!), I found that this hypothesis was wishful thinking at best. In the calendar year of 2016, Manchester United, a commercial juggernaut in the world of football, sold a record 2.85million jerseys.*
Using conservative estimates, Juventus would need to sell in the range of 5million jerseys – i.e. almost double the record of one of the most commercially successful football clubs in the world – to break even on Ronaldo’s aforementioned salary. As much as I love my club, we have nowhere near the financial and commercial might as the likes of Manchester United, Real Madrid (2.29million jerseys sold in 2016), or Barcelona (1.98million sold in 2016). Just to put it into perspective, in 2015/16 Juventus sold around 850,000 jerseys* for the entire team, meaning that we would have to sell almost 6 times more jerseys from one player than from the entire team combined. Like I said, that seems pretty ambitious.
*Note: Wait a few seconds for these links to load. Be patient!
Or we could sell some of our best players to fund it. Personally, this would go against my ethos of never putting a player above the institution, the club, because the individual should never be above the collective. Besides, I have issues with decimating a team just to purchase one player. All in all, as I try to do the mental gymnastics to figure out how this might work out, I'm very, very skeptical this will come off. But who knows, crazier things have happened.
Or as Nelson Mandela once said, it always seems impossible until it's done.
See you, Space Cowboy.