Juventus fans were outraged. The club had again increased the prices of season tickets. This time however, there was a serious hike, with tickets rising by as much as €300. To sit in the Curva, generally amongst the cheapest seats in any stadium in Italy, was now costing in excess of €600, by far and away the highest in Serie A.
Fans protested, and many argued that for the hike in prices they wanted to see a Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi playing in black and white. Fast forward two weeks later and Juve, incredibly, delivered.
The Ronaldo move has inevitably sent shockwaves around the world of football. Mass hysteria like this hasn’t been seen in Calcio since, coincidentally enough, the Brazilian Ronaldo signed for Inter in the summer of 1997 from Barcelona.
Last week, Juve’s shares spiked merely based on speculation of a Ronaldo transfer, when we were far away from any real confirmation. Ronaldo hasn’t even touched down in Turin and already the official online store and club shops around the city have ran out of the letters needed to print his name on the backs of shirts.
This was exactly why the club decided to spend €112m on this most brilliant of 33-year-olds. For aside from the mountain of goals that will surely follow, Ronaldo is a marketing behemoth, a one-man industry. A player with commercial appeal so vast and so far-reaching that if you accumulated every official Juventus account on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and combined their numbers, Ronaldo’s Twitter – alone - would still be ahead by some 23 million. That’s what Juventus are buying and hoping to gain; a gateway to greater mainstream acceptance.
In an era where young fans tend to support players rather than teams, the signing of Ronaldo could well prove to be Beppe Marotta’s finest masterstroke. Nobody in the game, with the exception of Ronaldo contemporary Messi, can move the needle quite like the Portuguese star. His arrival on Serie A shores has the potential to be a seismic game changer not just for Juve, but the league itself.
It’s been 21 years since Serie A signed the world’s best player. Whether you believe Ronaldo to be the best or not is immaterial, the fact remains he is the current Ballon d’Or holder. Many have arrived in Serie A and, over time, morphed into the finest players in the game. Zinedine Zidane, Pavel Nedved, Andriy Shevchenko and Kaka would all become Ballon d’Or winners.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic would become a star in his own, self-aggrandizing way, but you have to go back to original Ronaldo for the last time Italy bought the game’s No.1 at their peak.
The Ronaldo effect has been immediate. Since confirming the deal, Juve’s various social media platforms have increased by a million followers. The Juventus store in Milan is selling a Ronaldo shirt every minute.
Serie A is currently in the middle of negotiations for a new league sponsor. TIM, the Italian telecommunication stalwart that’s sponsored the league since 1998, decided to submit an offer deemed unacceptable by the league.
South Korean giants Samsung and Trenitalia are reported to have expressed an interest in bidding for the rights. With Ronaldo now on board, the league’s in a strong bargaining position to demand increasingly more money for the naming rights. Ronaldo, above all else, will undoubtedly bring more eyeballs to the product.
Ronaldo’s arrival could entice further stars to cast their glances over a league that many felt lost its lustre 15 years ago. Napoli’s appointment of Carlo Ancelotti, in itself a brilliant coup, combined with Roma’s recent resurgence and Inter finally resembling some measure of stability after making the Champions League for the first time in six years, and you’re left with a league that is very much regaining its prestige.
On the pitch, we know what Ronaldo will guarantee: goals, but his goals are just one facet of the overall picture. Juve are desperate to win that third, elusive Champions League trophy. The drought now stands at a frankly ridiculous 22 years. Zbigniew Boniek was once coined ‘Bello di notte’ (beauty of the night) by the legendary Gianni Agnelli, due to his performances under the lights in European games. No one shines brighter mid-week than Ronaldo. The Champions League is his arena of torment.
Whether he can bring the trophy back to Turin remains to be seen. As Juve will attest, winning the Champions League involves huge slices of luck, and not just a finely constructed squad.
But one thing is certain, Juventus will gain exposure like never before, and that’s what the club seeks, and what they’re ultimately gambling the house with.
Ronaldomania has only just started.
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