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Juventus offers Italian football way forward

By Ravi Ubha, CNN
May 7, 2013 -- Updated 1418 GMT (2218 HKT)
Juventus supporters celebrate after Sunday's 1-0 win over Palermo gave their team a 29th Italian Serie A title. Juventus supporters celebrate after Sunday's 1-0 win over Palermo gave their team a 29th Italian Serie A title.
29th scudetto for Juve
29th scudetto for Juve
29th scudetto for Juve
29th scudetto for Juve
Treble for Ajax
  • Juventus secure second successive Serie A title with 1-0 win over Palermo
  • Success was record 29th Italian title for Juve
  • Club stripped of 2005 and 2006 scudettos due to "Calciopoli" match-fixing scandal

(CNN) -- Amid all the talk of Germany's new-found domination of European football after the success of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund in reaching the Champions League final, Juventus' achievement of winning the Italian title for a record-extending 29th time almost passed by without notice at the weekend.

It was Juve's second consecutive Serie A crown and provided further testimony to the impact coach Antonio Conte has had given he has only been in charge since mid-2011.

Like all successful coaches, Conte has already turned his thoughts to the future rather than the past as he called for renewed investment from the club to enable him to take the team forward.

"Conte the man definitely wants to stay at Juventus," he had said prior to Sunday's 1-0 win over Palermo, which confirmed Juve's title success.

"However there is also Antonio Conte the professional, who needs to sit down with the club. I've left big jobs before when I didn't believe in the club's plans."

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Back in April, Antonio Conte had lamented his team's lack of spending power when the 'Old Lady' of Italian football lost to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarterfinals.

"If you have money, you buy players and you win," said Conte after Juve's exit. "There are superpowers like Real, Bayern, Barcelona and PSG who have a turnover of $524 million."

But if Juve hasn't yet been able to replicate its prowess of the mid-1990s in Europe's top club competition following the match-fixing scandal of seven years ago, relief might be on the way.

If an Italian side is to break through in the Champions League, Juve, which appeared in three straight Champions League finals between 1996 and 1998, will be the most likely candidate, not a rebuilding AC Milan.

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Unlike most other Italian teams, Juve's financial outlook isn't gloomy.

Long backed by car manufacturer Fiat and owning its own, newer stadium -- bucking the trend in Italy -- that replaced the eyesore of the Stadio Delle Alpi gives Juve a sizable head start.

The good times domestically could kick-start a run in Europe, according to an Italian football expert.

"They have can a massive advantage domestically, and I think in the long run, that's going to give them the ability to challenge in the Champions League," John Foot, author of Calcio: A History of Italian Football and a professor of modern Italian history at University College London, told CNN.

"I don't think they're that far away. They've done this thing which all the other Italian teams find very difficult to do or have the will to do, which is to move to the German model of having their own stadium, which is a cash cow.

"I think they're extremely well managed and the scandal is behind them," added Foot, referring to the "Calciopoli" match-fixing scandal which saw the club stripped of its 2005 and 2006 titles.

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According to the 2013 version of the Deloitte Money League, a list of the highest earning clubs in football, Juve placed 10th with revenues of $256 million in 2011/2012.

Juve was the second-highest ranked Italian team, two spots behind AC Milan.

Television package

More encouragingly for Juve, though, was an increase of around $52 million from the previous term -- bettering Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United, the top three clubs on the list.

And Juve did top Bayern Munich in one revenue stream -- broadcast revenues. Continual appearances in the Champions League, coupled with the new stadium, will only help matters.

Juve posted a profit of $14.8 million in the first half of 2012/2013, and although it said it expects the full-year figure to be in the red, losses are anticipated to be less than last season's $64 million and far less than 2010/2011's club record deficit of $124 million.

The Italian champions are said to be in discussions with Samsung, already a sponsor of the team, over naming rights to the stadium and a shirt sponsorship pact that could bring in $157 million.

But when Conte refers to Juve and other Italian teams lagging behind other football powerhouses, he is fully justified given Real Madrid's revenue figure of $672.6 million headed the Deloitte list.

Despite Manchester City being a relatively new player in world football, City's matchday revenues outdid those of Juve.

The Turin club's broadcast revenues were inferior to the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea, who benefit from the English Premier League's multi-billion pound television rights deal.

Serie A's overseas television rights deal, the Daily Mail reported last fall, was a mere one-sixth of the English Premier League.

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Perhaps an indication of its lessening appeal, Serie A -- dissimilar to the English Premier League, La Liga and the Bundesliga -- doesn't have a jersey sponsor for its match officials.

"One of the problems of Serie A is that it's difficult to see it," Foot said. "There's not a package, which is worse than it was in the '90s."

Call for reform

Juve president Andrea Agnelli wants change in Italian football, and so too does retired AC Milan and Italy great Paolo Maldini, part of the Milan team that beat Conte and Juventus in all an-Italian Champions League final in 2003.

"If you go outside the San Siro you can see people selling fake merchandising," he told Reuters news agency in April.

"It was like that when I started to play and it is still like that now. You can't allow this. Then you have old stadiums, very old stadiums. San Siro is a historic stadium. It's nice but doesn't offer comfort ... we have to improve it.

"Above all we need to learn from leagues that make money from sports rather than lose money."

Conte echoed those thoughts after Juve's Champions League exit.

I think we need to change Italian football and when I say we I mean us, the other clubs, media, fans and institutions," he said.

"Abroad they invest money in projects, here we talk about referees and what cars the players are driving."

On the pitch Juve didn't do as well as last season, which was not a surprise since it finished unbeaten in Serie A in 2011/2012.

Yet the margin of victory was still impressive. Juve pulled away from Napoli and by the end of the weekend held a 11-point lead.

Without benefiting from the individual brilliance of a Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Robin van Persie or Luis Suarez, Juve relied on a balanced attack and various sources to hit the back of the net.

Creativity came from more than playmaker Andrea Pirlo, too. Before Sunday's win over Palermo, four Juve players had more assists than Pirlo.

Conte's team was marshalled at the back by three notable Italian internationals, keeper Gianluigi Buffon and central defenders Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini.

A deal with Samsung would help Juve in its chase of summer targets and bolster its European prospects next season.

Alexis Sanchez of Barcelona, who hasn't shown his Udinese form in Spain, Paris Saint-Germain's Italian playmaker Marco Verratti, and talismanic striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic -- a former Juve players -- have all been linked with the Italian champions.

It all points to a promising period for Juve.

Maybe the glory days in Europe will return sooner than Conte anticipated.

"What Agnelli goes on about now is the system must be reformed," Foot said. "But he has done more than anyone else domestically, so I think Juventus are in a good position."

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