The news that Cristiano Ronaldo has agreed a move to Juventus has come at a crucial time as Italian football looks to reach out to a global audience.
It is hoped that Ronaldo’s arrival will boost the profile of the Italian league and draw in more viewers from around the globe. But while the Turin club were putting the finishing touches to the €340m deal, Serie B clubs Bari, Avellino and Cesena were facing extinction after being denied national club licences for the coming season.
It is no secret that lower league teams struggle to survive in Italy and it is not a new phenomenon. Big name clubs such as Napoli, Fiorentina and Parma have all previously faced financial ruin only to emerge after a restructuring process.
But could Ronaldo’s transfer help to propel Italian football back to the heights of popularity and success it enjoyed in the 1990s?
Crunching the numbers
The numbers behind the deal are staggering and Juventus are the only club in Italy able to pull off such a deal, so how will this benefit the rest of the league? First and foremost, it should be considered that Ronaldo has a fan base far greater than most clubs. There are people that worship the player ahead of any club conviction. He has 74m followers on Twitter; that’s more that’s twice as many as Real Madrid, the biggest football club in the world. In fact, the Spanish club lost more than a million followers within 24 hours of announcing the player’s departure.
There is no doubt that Ronaldo will bring viewers to the league and with more viewers comes more TV revenue and more exposure. This will also bring in more revenue from advertising while wagering and live betting activity on Italian football is also set to increase. It could also draw other high profile players to the peninsula. All of these things are key ingredients for a successful league.
A power shift?
Significantly, the end of the Ronaldo and Lionel Messi era could also signal a dip in popularity of La Liga. The presence of those two players has given Spanish football the financial clout to dominate the game for the last decade, but there could now be a switch of power to Italy, especially if Ronaldo can lead the Old Lady to a Champions League title.
Juventus will benefit first and foremost, the news of the transfer boosted their stock price by around 20% and the club gained several million new followers on social media in the first day, but this should also have a knock on effect to other clubs during the four years the Portuguese star remains in Italy.
Not everyone is convinced – workers at a Fiat factory (whose investors sanctioned the deal) are not convinced and are set to go on strike – but overall, the transfer has been met with cautious optimism. However, it has also served to highlight the extreme levels of financial disparity that exists within the Italian leagues. And it might come too late for the clubs like Bari, Avellino and Cesena who have limited time available to get their affairs in order to avoid going out of business.