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Oct 26, 2012

Agnelli: Italian football must change

Juventus president Andrea Agnelli has told shareholders that Italian football is "faced with a structural collapse" and must take action to halt the decline.

• Blog: Catania's Maran prepares for Juve

Agnelli was speaking at Juve's Annual General Meeting, which he opened with a lengthy speech that touched on a number of subjects, referencing quotes from Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein and Bob Dylan.

"Juventus are champions of Italy," he began. "Your club is champion of Italy. For far too long, Juventus presidents, including myself, have had to come into this meeting to comment, explain and analyse the club's financial results without the heart-warming joy that comes from a triumph such as the one we achieved a few months ago.

"But football is not what it used to be. Football is a rapidly, and in some cases dramatically, evolving phenomenon. Einstein said: 'Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.' He didn't know much about football but it's a rule that no one in football or in Italy can ignore. The problem is working out where the point of balance is..."

Agnelli feels Italian sides must work hard to avoid being left behind as the game evolves.

"We need to change Italian football and bring it up to European standard," he said. "Today, Italian football finds itself at a crossroads. We all need to ask ourselves what Italian football will have become in a few years' time. Many countries have experienced a footballing decline but none have had such a rapid descent. We are faced with a structural collapse which cannot simply be put down to the economic crisis.

"The football world is evolving but it will not wait for Italy. Think that at your peril. Our coaches and our best talents have new stages on which they can test themselves, from Brazil to China to Russia and the Middle East. We all have to adapt.

"Juventus do not intend to sink like a stone but will have to float with Italian football, which we want to have dialogue with and find solutions with urgently."

He was followed onto the podium by director general Beppe Marotta, who is responsible for the club's transfer market moves. He admitted mistakes had been made, and cited the €12 million acquisition of Uruguay international Jorge Martinez as the biggest error.

"It's true, errors have been made, Jorge Martinez above all, but you only make mistakes when you actually buy," he said. "Don't forget about the ones we got right, like Andrea Pirlo on a free, Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal - a player we signed for €10 milion and one for whom we rejected an offer of €30 million. We turned that down because Juventus are not a selling club."

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