Juventus defiant in match-fix controversy

Story highlights

Juventus president Andrea Agnelli claims the Turin giants have won 30 Serie A titles

Club stripped of two Scudettos in 2005 and 2006 in the Italian match-fixing scandal

A sign displaying the number 30 has appeared at the the new stadium in Turin

Agnelli wants the club to become a major force again in European football

CNN  — 

When Juventus’ long wait for a Serie A crown ended this month, it focused attention on the corruption scandals which have blighted Italian football in recent years.

The Turin giants were stripped of the titles won in 2005 and 2006 and relegated to Serie B because of their involvement, along with several other top clubs, in match fixing.

The “Calciopoli” affair saw former Juventus managing director Luciano Moggi banned for life by the Italian football authorities, and he is still facing criminal proceedings for sporting fraud.

But while those successes were expunged from the record books, Juventus president Andrea Agnelli has told CNN that they still count for everyone involved with the club – making it 30 Scudettos overall, not 28.

After clinching the title two weeks ago with victory over Atlanta, a sign displaying the number 30 appeared at the entrance to Juve’s new stadium, which has been used for the first time this season.

“Well for the official records it’s the 28th, for every single Juventina (Juventus fan) in the world it’s the 30th,” said the 36-year-old Agnelli, the fourth member of the famous family which owns car manufacturer FIAT to take the helm at Juventus.

“It’s a very tough matter, I would say. One of the privileges of managing Juventus is managing people’s dreams and emotions – in our emotions and our feelings we have 30.”

Three stars controversy

Reports in Italy also claim that Juventus players will have three stars embroidered inside their official club badges on shirts to be worn next season.

The tradition of depicting a star for every 10 championships won was started by Agnelli’s father Umberto, a legendary former Juventus president.

The move could put the club at odds with the Italian football federation (FIGC) at a time when another potential match-fixing scandal has been made public.

The FIGC said in a statement last month that nine former Bari players were under investigation for the “alleged fixing of nine matches in last season’s Serie A championship.”

Former Bari defender Andrea Masiello – now playing for Atalanta – was arrested as part of the probe which also implicated eight of his former teammates.

In August 2011, former Atalanta captain and Italian international midfielder Cristiano Doni was banned for three and a half years for his part in the “Calcioscommesse” match-fixing and betting scandal involving Serie B matches.

It left Atalanta, who were promoted from Serie B, with a six point penalty at the start of this year’s Serie A season.

Three stars on their shirts or otherwise, Agnelli, who took over the helm two years ago, is on a mission to restore his club’s reputation as a major force. Statistically the most successful team in Italian football history, Juve also won the European title in 1985 and 1996.

Champions League hopes

Not content with going unbeaten through the Serie A season under coach Antonio Conte, Agnelli believes the Bianconeri can win the Champions League in their first appearance in the competition since the 2009-10 season.

“It’s never too early,” he said. “Juventus takes part in every single competition with ambitions of winning it.”

The only blot on this season’s copybook came in the final match, as an unbeaten 43-game run ended in the Coppa Italia final on Sunday.

A 2-0 defeat to Napoli meant disappointment for Juventus legend Alessandro Del Piero in the final match of his 19-year career with the club.

It was a bitter pill to swallow, but Agnelli is philosophical about the defeat.

“If they would have asked me in September, ‘At the end of the year you win the Scudetto but lose the Coppa Italia final,’ I would have signed a hundred times no question about it, so we’re extremely proud of what we’ve done,” he said.

“I think it’s been an extraordinary result, let’s say we’ve just missed a little topping on the cake and we might leave that for next year.”

Agnelli appointed former Juve player Conte after sacking Luigi Delneri as coach in May 2011 and it proved a master stroke.

But Agnelli – a graduate of Britain’s prestigious Oxford University – has had to overhaul the team and the club’s commercial operations in order to compete with leading Europe rivals.

“There’s been a lot of changes,” Agnelli admitted.

“What I’ve tried to do is to revive the pride of being at Juventus. We’re all extremely proud that we’ve achieved that in only two years.”

Star quality

Working with Conte, Agnelli has placed the emphasis on youth and players who are on the upward curve in their careers.

“We might not be full of stars but we’re full of “wannabe” stars.

He cites Chile midfielder Arturo Vidal as an example: “He is going to become a star – he’s 24, he’s got over 40 caps for his national team, he can be a star.”

But Agnelli also credited his more senior players such as goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who stayed with the club despite the relegation, and has special praise for retiring fans’ favorite Del Piero.

“I think Alessandro, as I’ve said many times, will always represent Juventus,” he said.

“He’s been our captain for 10 years and what a finale – lifting the trophy, that’s an amazing story. I think we always have to be grateful to him.”