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Opinion: The reasons behind Juventus’s punishment when there are no ‘plusvalenza’ regulations

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After waiting for ten long days, the Italian Football Federation, FIGC, released their reasoning for why they have deducted 15 points from Juventus in the current league standings.

Not a single place does the FIGC refer to a transaction, document or anything else that can be considered as “real proof” of their decision. So we are dealing with a bit of a soap opera and Juventus will surely appeal this decision made by FIGC.

It will be interesting to follow the development of this story, but actually there has already been a similar case investigating the use of plusvalenza.

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In the early 2000s many Italian clubs resorted to the use of plusvalenza and among them was Milan and Inter. But also clubs such as Roma, Lazio, Cheivo, Cesena, Parma and Perugia took advantage of this quick fix back in the day.

In the 2003 balance sheet of the Nerazzurri club you can see the sales of four boys to the Rossoneri cousins: Salvatore Ferraro, Alessandro Livi, Giuseppe Ticli and Marco Varaldi. Operations for non-level footballers, but they generated capital gains of €14m.

Similarly, in the Milan budget, you can see four opposing operations: the transfers to the Nerazzurri of Simone Brunelli, Matteo Deinite, Matteo Giordano and Ronny Toma. Four disposals, which allowed capital gains of about €12m to be entered in the balance sheet.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office of Milan found these operations suspicious and opened an investigation for false in the balance sheet against the former Rossoneri CEO Adriano Galliani, owner of Inter Massimo Moratti and the Nerazzurri leaders Rinaldo Ghelfi and Mauro Gambaro.

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After a few years, in 2008, it all ended with the acquittal of all the suspects. The reason was “there is no law that prohibits the use of plusvalenza”.

Yet, here we are, fifteen years later, and once again FIGC are investigating the use of plusvalenza, although there are still no regulations in this area. Why is that?

The obvious reason is the broken relationship between UEFA president Aleksandr Ceferin and Juventus’ recently departed president Andrea Agnelli.

The two had a close, almost familial relationship with each other until Agnelli fell on Ceferin’s back with the announcement of the European Super League. There is definitely bad blood between the two and Ceferin in particular seems intent on getting revenge on Andrea Agnelli and Juventus.

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The Plusvalenza case is not run by Ceferin but by FIGC, but it is pretty clear to everyone that Ceferin has spoken to FIGC and put pressure on them to initiate an investigation.

Another curious thing is that Inter, shortly after also withdrawing from the ECA (European Club Association) in the spring of 2021, re-entered the ECA only a couple of months later. Not only were Inter forgiven, Inter also got Alessandro Antonello elected into an influential board position. In itself, it makes sense that an Italian club sits at the table when big things have to be decided on behalf of football.

But why Inter? After all, they were one of the twelve clubs that left the ECA, so you would immediately think that they were in bad standing for a period.

Inter, Juventus’ biggest rival, to be installed again in the ECA? Is it just a coincidence or was it also Ceferin’s way of provoking Agnelli? Or could it even be imagined that Ceferin via his new friend and President of the ECA after Andrea Agnelli left, Nasser Al-Khelaifi had offered Inter this influential post as well as some kind of immunity in a future investigation, if in return they could pass on information about how to target Agnelli and Juventus? Remember, there is a person close to Antonello in Inter’s top management, Beppe Marotta, who has knowledge of Juventus and Paratici’s working methods.

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In any case, it is strange that the investigation of Juventus starts immediately after Inter’s entry into the ECA, just as it is also somewhat suspicious that Inter is not investigated in the Plusvalenza case. There are many suspicious deals with Inter, Vanheusden is a completely obvious example of the use of plus valenza, as was also reported by Tuttosport the other day.

Another example is the Bastoni deal from 2017, where Inter pays Atalanta €31m, but in the same summer Fabio Eguelfi is sent to Atalanta and the following year also Davide Betella and Marco Carraro. In total for the three players a total sum of €18m. All three players currently appear in Serie B and Serie C clubs and none of the players have ever since been traded where a transfer fee has taken place. At first glance, it looks like a kind of masked counterbalance to the Bastoni deal, where the clubs hide their tracks by spreading the deals over two transfer years, so that it doesn’t seem suspicious.

The fact that Inter is not being investigated alongside the other ten clubs, I can only interpret as someone higher up in the hierarchy holding their hand over them.

Finally, I must say that I do not think that some clubs can or should be punished as it is not a crime. Not Juventus. Not Atalanta. Not Inter. What I think the Italian government should do is to change the rules for how clubs are allowed to account purchases and sales, so that it is in line with the rest of the European system. In this way, Italy comes to life with this type of creative bookkeeping. Until then, let’s hope Elkann and his team of lawyers attack the FIGC’s hopeless and leaky case so we can be exonerated and get our 15 points back.

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The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) has deducted 15 points from Juventus in the current league standings, causing a stir in the football world. The FIGC’s explanation for the deduction was vague, lacking concrete evidence to support their decision. Juventus is expected to appeal the decision, leading to a potential legal battle.

There have been similar cases in Italy in the past, particularly in the early 2000s when many clubs, including Milan, Inter, Roma, and others, resorted to the use of “plusvalenza” to boost their finances. However, the use of this practice was deemed legal and the suspects were acquitted by the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Milan.

The current investigation by the FIGC is thought to be politically motivated, with a broken relationship between UEFA President Aleksandr Ceferin and Juventus’ former president Andrea Agnelli being cited as the main reason. Ceferin’s influence on the FIGC is widely speculated, and Inter’s recent reentry into the European Club Association (ECA) has raised further questions. Despite Inter’s participation in similar financial practices, the club has not been investigated in the current case.

Ultimately, it is suggested that the rules for accounting purchases and sales in Italian football should be updated to align with the rest of Europe. The author believes that no club should be punished for the use of “plusvalenza,” but rather the government should take steps to create a fair and transparent system.

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