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Soccer Juventus Sinking To New Lows As Champions League Exit Looms

REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/Fiel Photo

A month after reporting their biggest ever financial loss, Juventus are braced for yet more economic pain as they near elimination from the Champions League.

Tuesday’s humiliating 2-0 defeat by Maccabi Haifa left chief executive Andrea Agnelli “ashamed” and “angry” as his club sank five points behind second-placed Benfica in Group H with two games left to play.

They face the prospect of not making it out of the group stage for the first time since 2013.

Coach Massimiliano Allegri, who is enduring a torrid second spell in charge of Juventus after a trophy-laden first tenure, responded by obliging the team to stay at their base for three days before Saturday’s derby in the league against Torino.

Juve’s European struggles come at a particularly acute time for the club, who last month posted a loss of 254 million euros ($247.07 million) for the last financial year.

Not making the Champions League knockout round would deprive Juventus of 9.6 million euros of prize money for reaching the last 16 plus a potential 38.6 million euros in the event they reached the final.

A bigger concern long-term would be a failure to finish in the top-four of Serie A and make it into next season’s competition, a very real threat with the team currently eighth in the Serie A standings.

The team’s poor results mark another low for Agnelli, one of the architects of the doomed European Super League.

The proposed league, which collapsed two days after its launch in April 2021, sought to guarantee entry and increase prize money for the continent’s biggest sides and guard against the impact of one poor campaign.

Juventus are one of three clubs of the 12 founders to still back the Super League, along with Barcelona, who are also on the brink of Champions League elimination, and Real Madrid. Their hopes of resurrecting the project rest on a case being considered by the European Union’s top court.

This is Juventus’ most difficult period since the 2010-11 season, when they finished seventh in Serie A, although their struggles then could be explained by the devastating effects of the 2006 Calciopoli corruption scandal.

Their current travails are harder to excuse. Juve won a record nine consecutive Serie A titles between 2012 and 2020, a period in which they also reached two Champions League finals.

Allegri returned as coach in 2021 in the hope he would restore them to their past glories after the unsuccessful appointments of Maurizio Sarri and novice Andrea Pirlo.

But the coach has been accused of failing to move with the times, sticking rigidly to outdated tactics.

Despite the dire results, Agnelli has insisted he will not sack Allegri mid-season.

“A situation like this isn’t dependent on one person. It comes down to the collective and we must start thinking like one again,” he said on Tuesday.

The problem for Agnelli is Juventus have been on the decline for several years under his watch, both on and off the pitch.

Reuters

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