In 2011, Italian powerhouse Juventus signed an ageing Andrea Pirlo from AC Milan on a ‘free transfer’, or as football agents call it - on a ‘Bosman deal’. While Pirlo went on to win four consecutive Scudettis for Juventus, it was the beginning of a new era for the Italian giants, who began building their team around players acquired on free transfers. The signing of the 2006 FIFA World Cup winner started a coup of free signings for the Bianconeri.
Since 2011, Juventus have gone on to win eight consecutive Scudettis. On the free transfers front, the Bianconeri have gone on to bring onboard Fernando LLorente, Paul Pogba, Dani Alves, Sami Khedira, Kingsley Coman, and in more recent times, Emre Can, Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot.
While many confuse these transfers as free agents, one thing worth mentioning is that Juventus did have to shell out a sum of money to acquire them, mostly in agent fees. The relationship between the Bianconeri management and many prominent football agents is key to the acquisition of many such top players. Between 2014 and 2017, the Bianconeri have paid over €80 million in agent commissions, with most of this money being paid as part of Bosman deals.
Juventus use these agents as intermediaries in other deals as well. When they were trying to sign Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid last season, Jorge Mendes handled most of the negotiations. The same approach was used with Europa League winners Chelsea to poach their present coach Maurizio Sarri, with agent Fali Ramadani acting as the intermediary.
Read: Can Maurizio Sarri propel Juventus to Champions League glory?
Many clubs have complained about Juventus’ approach. They feel that approaching players via agents and not the parent clubs directly is unethical. French champions Paris St. Germain took up the issue of Kingsley Coman, while Lazio complained about how Juventus tried to sign Keita Balde and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. The advantage of working with agents directly is that Juventus now have become preferred customers when some of these agents have clients available on Bosman deals.
It is not only their financial prudence that attracts players, but also the flexibility of their management. While many fans of the Bianconeri have complained about letting their favourite players leave whenever they want, other football stars notice that management does not stand in their way in case they want to exit the club.
After four successful seasons, Andrea Pirlo moved to North America although he had a year left on his contract. Dani Alves was allowed to leave after a difficult season in Italian football. Even Argentina legend Carlos Tevez was not stopped when he wanted to return to Boca Juniors.
While these Bosman deals have been hugely profitable for the club, many of their rivals have begun to follow suit. Internazionale signed Kwadwo Asamoah and Stefan De Vrij last year, while Diego Godin swapped the stripes of Atletico Madrid for Inter at the beginning of this season. This means that a time will come when Juventus will have to give up the reigns of Italian Champions, but no one can doubt their double crown as Italy’s football champions and transfer kings.
Watch: How Juventus added 15 players for free in 9 years
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Marco Bertorello