Juventus turmoil: Raided by police and struggling in Serie A

Juventus team poses prior to the Serie A soccer match between Juventus and Atalanta, at the Allianz stadium in Turin, Italy, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. (Fabio Ferrari/LaPresse via AP)
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TURIN, Italy (AP) – As if having their offices raided by police investigating financial crimes wasn’t serious enough for Juventus, Italy’s most successful football team is enduring damaging turmoil on the field too.

For nine consecutive seasons, Juventus won the Italian title before being toppled as champions by Inter Milan in May. Now the team is being booed by its fans as it slides down the standings.

The jeering followed a 1-0 loss to Atalanta on Saturday that left the 36-time Italian champions in eighth place after more than a third of the season. It’s not about trying to regain the title now, just a scramble to avoid missing out on lucrative UEFA income with Atalanta seven points ahead in the fourth and last Champions League qualification place.

Although it followed a dispiriting 4-0 collapse at Chelsea on Tuesday, at least a place in the round of 16 of this season’s Champions League has already been secured for February.

Much uncertainty, though, hangs over its leadership in the coming weeks after financial police searched the club’s offices in Turin and Milan on Friday to gather information relating to player transfers and agent dealings between 2019 and this year.

Prosecutors are investigating whether someone at the club, which is listed on the Milan stock exchange, cashed in on illegal commissions from transfer and loans of players. The case is also exploring if investors were misled with invoices being issued for non-existent transactions to demonstrate income that in turn could be deemed false accounting.

Juventus confirmed that its president, Andrea Agnelli, was under investigation along with vice president Pavel Nedved, a decorated former player, chief financial officer Stefano Cerrato and other former staff.

Italian market regulator CONSOB is investigating Juventus over revenue from player trading that was €43.2 million (now $50 million) in 2020-21 and €172 million (now $195 million) in the previous financial year.

“The company is cooperating with the investigators,” Juventus said in a statement, “and with CONSOB and trusts that it will clarify any aspect of interest to it as it believes to have acted in compliance with the laws and regulations governing the preparation of financial reports, in accordance with accounting principles and in line with the international practice in the football industry and market conditions.”

The investigation is a further setback for Agnelli, who had brought back title-winning coach Massimiliano Allegri after Andrea Pirlo’s struggles in his single season in charge.

The end of the team’s Serie A supremacy coincided with the fall from grace in football politics for Agnelli, whose reign as head of the European Club Association ended in April with his ill-fated attempt to split from UEFA and form a largely closed Super League.

Agnelli, along with Barcelona and Real Madrid, is still clinging to the hope of launching a breakaway competition that locks in places for the elite like Juve.

The reason why the two-time European champions would be so desperate for such a competition has been reinforced by its domestic struggles and defeats to teams like Atalanta, which only made its Champions League debut in 2019.

Qualification for the Champions League could also be in the hands of the European Court of Justice.

UEFA is seeking backing of the court to punish clubs who undermine its authority over organizing competitions by trying to launch breakaways.

The first public hearing is due in the first half of next year which could allow UEFA to revive disciplinary action that allows it to ban Juve along with Barca and Madrid from European competitions while they refuse to disavow the Super League.

The more immediate problems need to be tackled by Allegri, rather than Super League lawyers.

“We were anxious and in a hurry,” Allegri said after the loss at Atalanta left his team eighth. “If we are in this position in the table at the moment, it means that right now, this is what we are worth, which includes everyone, including the manager.

“We need to be realistic, take the pressure off to work as calmly as possible.”