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30 Nov, 2021 12:24

Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus contract: What are authorities investigating?

Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus contract: What are authorities investigating?

Italian giants Juventus are suspected of making payments to Cristiano Ronaldo at the height of the pandemic while other players had theirs frozen, according to a report. But what is behind the potential scandal?

Juventus are undergoing an investigation by the Prosecutors' Office involving a wide range of leaders and employees at Italy's most successful football club.

The potential punishments could have a seismic impact on Italian football and have even encompassed alleged contractual negotiations with Cristiano Ronaldo.

What is the investigation about?

The probe is said to center on around $320 million of capital gains 'characterized by fraudulently increased values', the Prosecutor's Office has said, with an investigation by the commission responsible for inspecting listed companies opened on the issue on July 12.

False accounting and the issuing of invoices for transactions that did not exist, accompanied by false communications to investors, are two key concerns prosecutors are reportedly investigating.

At the weekend, Italian finance police raided the Turin and Milan offices of the Serie A side in search of documents related to its transfers during three seasons up to and including 2020/21.

Who is under scrutiny?

Six figures at Juventus are said to be under investigation over false accounting, including president Andrea Agnelli.

CEO Maurizio Arrivabene spoke to investigators on Monday, according to Gazzetta, which also said that sporting director Federico Cherubini was questioned for more than nine hours on Saturday.

Secretary Paolo Morganti, under-23 team manager Giovanni Manna – helping because of "many suspicious transactions concerning young people", according to the outlet – and Cesare Gabasio, a lawyer responsible for Juventus' legal affairs since 2021 and reporting directly to Agnelli, could be the next in line.

Public prosecutor documents which the newspaper claims to have seen show that Stefano Bertola and Marco Re, the club's former Chief Corporate and Financial Officer and former financial manager respectively, and Stefano Cerrato, the club's current Chief Corporate and Financial Officer of Juve, have been spoken to.

Agnelli and vice-president Pavel Nedved are yet to be summoned. Nor has Fabio Paratici, the club's Chief Football Officer until May who is now the Managing Director of Football for English heavyweights Tottenham.

Which player transfers are said to be involved?

Italy's federal prosecutor is said to be investigating 42 transfers, including Juventus swapping Miralem Pjanic for Barcelona's Arthur Melo in June 2020.

The $36.5 million deal that took Joao Cancelo to reigning Premier League champions Manchester City in return for Danilo two years ago is said to be of interest, as is the $62 million transfer of Cristian Romero to Tottenham in August.

Italian side Atalanta initially signed Romero permanently for $18 million, only to immediately send him on loan to Tottenham, who had the option to buy him.

"Several transfer operations of professional players and the services rendered by some agents involved in the related intermediation are under consideration," Turin prosecutor Anna Maria Loreto is also quoted as saying.

There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by Tottenham or any of the other clubs involved in the transfers. Tottenham have reportedly discussed the developments with Paratici.

Why has Cristiano Ronaldo's name come up?

La Gazzetta dello Sport say that Ronaldo's transfer and its financial details are now of interest. The four-year contract agreed by the striker when he joined Juve from Real Madrid in 2018 was worth a reported $35.2 million per season. But there were no additional bonuses other than a low one for winning the Scudetto. 

Investigators want to know why, as indicated by reported telephone conversations, monthly payments were allegedly made to the Portuguese superstar between March and April 2020 while Italy was in lockdown and his teammates had theirs frozen.

What are the possible consequences?

The Italian association for the protection of consumer rights, Codacons, has warned that Juventus could be relegated to second tier Serie B and stripped of their latest top-flight title, Gazzetta said. That would be a remarkable downfall considering they have won the most Scudetto titles – 36 – including nine in a row before last season.

"If Juventus were to have illegally gained an advantage over rival clubs with operations of this type, then the regularity of the [most recent] football championships [season] would fail and, as a consequence, the Federation and the Market Competition Authority will have to intervene and sanction those responsible," explained Codacons president Marco Donzelli.

"Beyond individual responsibilities, the club will not be exempt from punishment. For this reason and for the protection of thousands of fans, we will present a complaint to [the authority] and the Federal Prosecutor's Office asking for the relegation of the Juventus club to Serie B and the revocation of the last league titles won [under] the [alleged] shadow of these potentially illegal operations."

How has the club responded?

The latest reports claim that Juventus remain "calm and confident of being able to clarify everything" and are "convinced" that they have acted within the rules.

Juve boss Massimiliano Allegri said that Agnelli reassured employees including the coaching staff before their 1-0 win at Atalanta on Saturday. "We don't isolate ourselves – we are inside Juventus," said Allegri, who is overseeing an underwhelming season in which his side are currently seventh in the league. "The president spoke to the employees and on Saturday to the team. He reassured us."