Soccer-Agnelli under siege as Juventus chairman faces calls for resignation


FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Serie A - Torino v Juventus - Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino, Turin, Italy - November 2, 2019 Juventus president Andrea Agnelli before the match REUTERS/Massimo Pinca/File Photo

ROME (Reuters) - As the dust settles following the collapse of the European Super League project, the focus has started to turn towards what comes next for Juventus and their under-fire chairman Andrea Agnelli.

The Italian club were one of 12 founding members of the breakaway competition, which fell apart within 48 hours of its inception this week.

Agnelli said in an interview with Reuters on Wednesday that the project could not proceed after all six English Premier League teams withdrew late on Tuesday, leaving the 45-year-old in an awkward position.

Agnelli resigned from his role as chairman of the European Club Association on Sunday after the Super League was announced, and he was accused of being a liar by UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin.

“I have never seen a person who would lie so many times and so persistently as he did,” Ceferin said, leaving a previously close personal relationship in tatters.

It was not the only relationship that suffered seemingly irreparable damage, as several of Agnelli’s fellow Serie A presidents spoke out against him.

Torino owner Urbano Cairo said: “Those who came up with the Super League are attacking Serie A and for this betrayal they must resign and be ashamed."

Massimo Ferrero, Sampdoria president, said: “I’ve always voted against him, I’ve never followed him. What did he do in such a delicate moment? I have no words. If I said what I think, they would censor the radio.”

Fans expressed their anger on social media, while a mural of Agnelli stabbing a football appeared in Rome.

The disintegration of Agnelli’s relationships at home and abroad led to speculation over his future.

Gazzetta dello Sport wrote on Thursday that he was “isolated in Italy and Europe”.

Alessandro Nasi, vice-chairman of Exor, the holding company with a 63.8% stake in Juventus, recently-elected member of the FIFA council Evelina Christillin, and even World Cup-winning former Italy coach Marcello Lippi were touted as potential successors.

'UNDER SIEGE'

Speaking to Reuters, Agnelli indirectly suggested he is going nowhere.

“I would look at the glass half full: this will give me time to focus everything on Juventus alone, which is my love,” he said.

Juventus have so far denied any reports of Agnelli’s imminent departure, and Tuttosport wrote that he is not currently at risk of losing his position.

But Corriere dello Sport said his “relationships with international institutions, FIFA and UEFA, are at an all-time low”, while Sky Italia described Juve’s Continassa training ground as “like a bunker, Agnelli under siege”.

Whatever happens, Juventus' delicate financial situation will be foremost in their thoughts.

Juventus posted record losses of 113.7 million euros ($136.6 million) in July-December 2020, and debts of 357.8 million euros at the end of 2020.

Talks over a 1.7 billion euro cash injection from a private equity consortium in exchange for a 10% stake in a new league media business have stalled, while Juve’s access to Champions League revenue next season is by no means guaranteed.

Andrea Pirlo's side are currently third in the Serie A table, but there are seven teams still competing for the top four places that gain access to European football’s most lucrative competition.

($1 = 0.8326 euros)

(Reporting by Alasdair Mackenzie; Editing by Toby Davis)

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