The Last Agnelli – The Imperfect President Who Embodied Juventus

Once upon a time in Turin, the city’s gigantic club was enduring some turbulent times, with the poor results on the pitch leaving the fans livid. Amid all the chaos, a young man rose to prominence, becoming club president, much to the delight of the supporters. After all, he possessed all the enthusiasm in the world and the desire to turn the club’s fortunes, and of course the right surname. And so, the Juventus of Andrea Agnelli was born.

The young chairman of the board is a shrewd man, but he certainly isn’t a magician. In order to replicate the success of his great predecessors (including that of his father Umberto and his legendary uncle Gianni) he had to surround himself with the right profiles.

Thankfully for the young Andrea, Sampdoria’s sudden rise in 2009/10 couldn’t have gone unnoticed, marking themselves as an obvious target. Agnelli had to raid them. There was no other way. In came general director Giuseppe Marotta alongside his young pupil Fabio Paratici.

They initially brought Luigi Delneri along with them, but the tactician wasn’t made for Turin. But Antonio Conte certainly was…

And so it began. With this impeccable crew, Agnelli brought Juventus back to its rightful place, and the longest winning dynasty in Italian football history was born.

So with the Scudetto repeatedly conquered and the whole Italian landscape within his grasp, what could have possibly gone wrong for the patron?

Well, perhaps it’s the same old curse that led great men towards damnation throughout the course of history: Vast ambition.

One would imagine that Alexander the Great would have lived longer had he decided to stay in Macedonia instead of conquering the known world, while Napoleon Bonaparte would have reached a more decent ending if he didn’t make enemies all around Europe.

Now we are certainly not comparing Andrea’s status to these historical figures, but fast expansion, exile and European animosity do ring a bell.

After winning three or four domestic titles, what was supposed to be deemed as great achievements began to pale in the eyes of club, its supporters and Agnelli himself. It was no longer enough nor satisfying.

Il Presidente wasn’t going to sit on his laurels and enjoy his hollow domestic glory. Now he wanted the big thing. He wanted the Champions League. And he wanted it badly…

On two attempts, the Bianconeri came exceptionally close to clinching the trophy that has alluded the club since 1996, only to extend their record as the ultimate finale chockers.

Despite there two heartbreaking defeats in 2015 and 2017, Juve had a solid project at the time, one that could have eventually unlocked the big-eared trophy had they maintained it.

But you know what they say, for a different outcome you need different measures. And thus, Agnelli decided to ring the changes at Juventus.

Perhaps it didn’t happen overnight, and maybe few had noticed the diverged path that Andrea’s management opted to take. But while looking back, one can easily link the dots which form one big pattern.

From Cristiano Ronaldo’s arrival and his astronomical wages, Paratici usurping his old master Marotta, changing the club’s crest and the rest of publicity stunts, all the way to the launching of the doomed European Super League. Agnelli had ran out of patience and was playing hardball.

The title of the club’s Amazon Prime docu-series had it right. It was indeed “All or Nothing”. And unfortunately for the now-resigned president, he fell on the wrong side of the equation.

Admittedly, Lady Luck hasn’t favored Agnelli in recent years. For instance, the Covid-19 pandemic ensued at a time when the club was beginning to expand the project. Thus, the costs were simply too high to endure the financial calamities brought upon by the worldwide virus.

At the time, the club was building a massive project on sand, with the hopes of finding immediate success on the pitch which would balance the books and everything in the world would be alright.

Sadly for the Bianconeri, it turned out to be the exact opposite. The results on the pitch only regressed despite the sensational acquisitions of CR7 and Matthijs de Ligt, while the Covid winds blew away the entire project and its shaky foundations.

Thus, one would say that Agnelli was the author of his own demise, as well as the club’s. After all, his decision to throw caution out of the window – alongside his main architect Marotta – cost the Old Lady dearly.

But at the same time, we can see the reasoning behind his bold calls. As the leader of the project, he surely felt that his main responsibility is to place Juventus on top of the world just like his late uncle Gianni once did. But how can Juventus compete with the Premier League giants and other European big boys when playing in a league that generates comprehensively less money?

Andrea had a choice to make: Either focus on domestic glory and play second-fiddle to richer clubs in Europe, or change the rules of the game. He chose the latter.

For Agnelli, the Super League project isn’t an option for Juventus, but a necessity. That is why he was willing to put it all on the line: his position as the head of ECA, his personal friendship with UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, the club’s reputation as well as his own, plus all the legal disputes. For Agnelli, this was a war that Juventus couldn’t avoid.

At the end of the day, it seemed that the alleged financial irregularities were the final nail in his presidency’s coffin. But then again, these reported allegations were simply the culmination of the club’s risky maneuvers which ultimately backfired, prompting the directors to commit such blunders.

This is the man who has done it all in the space of 12 years. He fought, he won, he risked, he thrived, he failed and now he bows out as a veteran of thousand battles.

So whether you love him or hate him, most of us will eventually miss him, if not for his person, but for what he represents for Juventus and Italian football. Ultimately, we’re talking about the man who could possibly go down in history as the last Juventus president who holds the legendary Agnelli surname, now that the family’s wealth has been inherited by his cousin John Elkann who has already replaced the resigned chairman with one of his own associates.

So with all due respect to the club’s newly-appointed president Gianluca Ferrero (who we admittingly know little about), he won’t be able to replace the status and aura that surrounded his predecessor, not even if he turns out to be more competent and a better fit for the role.

Because in the end, Agnelli was the imperfect president who perfectly embodied Juventus, a club that reaches rock bottom only to rise again from the ashes and take the world by storm.

In fact, Andrea Agnelli personifies the whole of Italian football, with its glory, misery, scandals and eternal elegance.

It’s a tale of black and white, success and failure, and for a man who rose to the scene amid turbulent times, taking the fall in similar circumstances was perhaps his inescapable destiny from the very beginning.

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