Italy's most successful team are about to become a lot more popular worldwide thanks to the signing of the five-time Ballon d'Or winner
There are two strands to the Cristiano Ronaldo transfer. The first is on a football level. Juventus signing Ronaldo should give the club a better chance of winning the Champions League.
They do not need him in order to win Serie A. They have done that seven times in a row without him and are unlikely to meet much resistance this season either.
Listen to anyone connected with Juventus speak and they’ll tell you the objective is the Champions League.
“As a club we have made a step forward and we want to make it count in the Champions League, which has been set as our objective in the next few years,” vice president Pavel Nedved told idnes.cz this week.
But it’s difficult to plot out success in a competition so short. There are only 13 matches – less than 33 per cent of a league season – and an outcome can easily be determined by an injury, a bad call, an off-day. That doesn’t happen so much over the course of a nine-month season.
Ronaldo won’t guarantee the Champions League for Juventus but he is as close as a guarantee as you can get.
Real Madrid have won four of the last five available Champions League titles. The only one they missed out on was in 2015 when Juventus beat them in the semi-finals. But every other year, Real have carried off the glory. Every year Ronaldo has been the top scorer.
He has 121 goals in all in the Champions League now. Seventy of those have come in the past five seasons. And when the big moment comes, you can bet your bottom dollar on Ronaldo making the difference. Granted, that hasn’t always been in finals – although he ripped Juventus apart in Cardiff with two goals in 2017 – but no Real Madrid title-winning season has passed without Ronaldo having a significant say.
Juventus thought they were buying a man in Gonzalo Higuain in 2016 who would get them closer than ever to securing that elusive European crown. It didn’t happen. Higuain wasn’t good enough to displace Ronaldo as the centre-piece of the Madrid attack and again the Portugal captain has come to show him how it’s done.
And now for the second strand. It will not necessarily be the case that Juventus have to first win the Champions League before going on to conquer the world. They can do both in tandem.
Conquering the world is not only about winning football matches and football competitions, it’s about becoming the best-known team on the planet. To put it bluntly, Cristiano Ronaldo is far, far more famous than the team he plays for.
And that would be true of any team. He is a one-man industry with a line in everything from underwear and shoes to hotels and fragrances.
If you were to craft a list of the most famous people in the world right now, you wouldn’t get far beyond the top three before including Ronaldo.
While Juventus will always be the number one team in Italy, that’s not the case outside the Italian borders. Teams like Manchester United, Barcelona and Real Madrid are far more popular worldwide and their advantages in overseas markets leave Juve at a distinct disadvantage. Ronaldo will help shore up that gap.
Where Ronaldo goes, fans follow. In the days following the announcement of his transfer to Turin, Juventus’s popularity on social media soared. At the same time, Real Madrid actually witnessed a dip in their matchday attendances.
“From 5 July to 17 July, Juventus' Twitter and Instagram followers increased by about 15% and 25%, respectively, marking an increase from around 7 million to more than 8 million in terms of total Twitter followers (considering the main Italian page and the English page), and an increase from 10.1 million to 12 5 million followers for their Instagram account,” noted KPMG ’s Ronaldo Economics report.
It's the type of move Paris St-Germain have attempted with Neymar and to an extent they have increased in popularity. But Neymar with no Ballons d’Or and Ronaldo with five are still some way apart in pedigree. Juve have signed the real thing.
Juventus might not have much room to grow in Italy but the battle for football’s forthcoming fortunes will be fought by Europe’s biggest clubs in regions including the United States and many parts of Asia.
'There’s no player bigger than the team' might be one of football’s old truisms but it belongs in another age. Ronaldo absolutely is bigger than Juventus just as Neymar is bigger than PSG.
There has been a shift in global football consciousness towards the veneration of the individual more than ever before. There are many ways to explain this – from a trend towards the celebrity in general to a communication age where fans can keep up with their favourite stars at their convenience.
Older fans tend to lament the trends of younger kids not supporting their local teams but this generation are being raised on the internet. Real Madrid, Barcelona, these are their local teams.
Through FUT and Football Manager and Fantasy Football games, casual fans will identify with players who have brought them success and happiness in the virtual world more so than any connection to an average team who happen to be based in geographical proximity.
Fans are attracted to success; they want highlights, they want goals and rightly so. Ronaldo ticks all the boxes.
“The Bianconeri need to strongly capitalize on the acquisition of Ronaldo, especially in merchandising and sponsoring,” notes KPMG .
“The club still lag behind the main European superpowers in this area. In 2016/17 Manchester United FC, Barcelona FC, Real Madrid CF and FC Bayern München recorded €320 million, €288 million, €280 million and €344 million, respectively, more than twice as much Juventus FC’s figure of €120 million.”
KPMG also reports that more than 40 per cent of Juventus’s current sponsors are Italian based and – unlike Manchester United – they haven’t expanded their presence by hooking up with regional partners around the world.
Juventus have already been delivered an insight into the Ronaldo effect. A mere rumour of his signing sent the organisation’s share price skyrocketing by around 32 per cent in the fortnight leading up to his arrival.
By capitalising on his image and his overwhelming strong social media presence, Juventus should be able to grow their brand.
He has over 141 million followers on Instagram – more than anyone in the world other than Selena Gomez - and commands around €300,000 for a single sponsored post. Juventus – meanwhile – have 15.6 million followers with that figure rising sharply in the days and weeks since Ronaldo joined.
Ronaldo will allow Juventus reach new fans, customers, users, whatever you want to call it, on a whole new level.
“Monetising the inherent value in social media is crucial for clubs in order to stay competitive and to enhance their profitability,” says KPMG .
“Club channels also provide a unique setting for partners and sponsors to activate their brands and, ultimately, increase their sponsorship value or return on investment. This is the area in which Juventus FC will have to make a major effort to fully leverage Ronaldo’s investment.”
It’s into countries like Indonesia, India, Malaysia, Pakistan and Vietnam, according to KPMG , that Ronaldo can carry the name Juventus. With his near 123 million Facebook fans, Ronaldo has a reach far greater than any club.