Details are starting to dribble out about the nature of the current financial investigation that has resulted in the resignation of Juventus’ entire board of directors, and that potentially involves current Tottenham Hotspur Director of Football Fabio Paratici. While this past spring’s “Prisma” player valuation scandal has been referenced in other reports (and may still be part of ongoing investigations), this latest round of investigations appears to be centered more on how Juventus handled its finances during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in late 2020.
In short, when all of football shut down in the spring of 2020, Juventus hatched a plan to publicly declare that it was freezing the salaries of its contracted players, while secretly arranging to pay them under the table. Now WhatsApp chat transcripts from then-Juventus club captain Giorgio Chiellini to the rest of the squad have emerged that seem to implicate both Paratici (who was Director of Football at the time) and president Andrea Agnelli in the scheme.
Chiellini references Paratici by name, spells out the plan, and then asks the players not to talk about the arrangement to anyone in the press.
“Hello everyone, as you know we are talking with Fabio [Paratici] and the president to try to help the club and all the employees in this difficult moment. The final proposal is this: we are missing four months of salary, three months paid in case we manage to finish the season, two and a half months in case we stop.
“The president has guaranteed the payment of one month’s salary on July 1 and the rest in the 20/21 season. They really thank the whole team for their sensitivity. In case of okay, tomorrow I will have a paper signed by the president where he guarantees the above.
“Due to stock market legislation, the communication that would come out is only of the waiver of the four months. You are asked NOT TO TALK IN THE INTERVIEWS about the details of this agreement.”
In a second chat transcript the following day, Chiellini spelled out even more of the plan:
“You will receive in the next few days a sheet that is worth everything and nothing like the one the president and I signed, where we commit ourselves to giving up the remaining months of this season.
“Subsequently, your lawyers or agents will be contacted and AT THE SAME TIME the contracts valid for this season and next will be signed. Juventus will make a press release saying that we are waiving four monthly payments to help the club. Thank you for everything.”
To make it clear, Juventus paying its players during the pandemic-enforced halt in football is good. Workers should be paid and contracts should be honored! However, if what Chiellini suggests here is accurate, Juventus essentially cooked its books by publicly stating that the players were voluntarily giving up four months of their wages to help the club, then funneling money to them secretly anyway. That’s pretty bad!
The pandemic wreaked financial havoc among football clubs all around the globe, leading some to take extraordinary measures to stay solvent. That certainly doesn’t excuse financial malfeasance, but it does provide a glimpse into the likely panic that was happening within Juventus’ top brass at the time.
I have no idea what this ultimately means, how it might (or might not) impact Paratici in his current job at Tottenham Hotspur, or in what way Chiellini and what might happen to the other past Juventus players in 2020-2021. But on the face of it, this looks pretty damning, and implies that Paratici’s hands are definitely not clean.