Tottenham look to follow Juventus' lead as move to new stadium looms
TURIN, Italy -- Francesco Gianello did not have time to enjoy Juventus' dream start. As Gonzalo Higuain's early brace against Tottenham sent the Juventus Stadium into raptures, deep in its bowels Gianello was already too busy to join the celebrations as his headset hummed with information from around the ground. In more than seven years as Juventus' head of stadium, Gianello has never had the chance to enjoy a goal. Except one.
"I realised this stadium had changed the club when we played the first official match [here] against Parma and [Stephan] Lichtsteiner scored," he told ESPN FC at the ground now known as the Allianz Stadium. "I understood then that a new area had started. I was sure of that."
Andrea Pirlo's pass was, as always, perfect and Lichtsteiner took a touch and finished for the first competitive goal at Juve's new home. Every outfield player bundled on to the prone Swiss amid a deafening roar, while Gianluigi Buffon turned and screamed into the Curva Sud.
A week earlier, on Sept. 8 2011, Andrea Agnelli, the fourth Juventus president from his family, welcomed supporters back "home" during the stadium's opening ceremony against Notts County, the club who inspired the Old Lady's black and white stripes. But Lichtsteiner's goal was the moment they really belonged.
Tottenham, who host Juve at Wembley in the Champions League round-of-16 second leg this week, will be hoping for a similar epiphanic moment when they play the first game at their new stadium, likely to be in September.
Just as the Juventus Stadium is on the same site as the old Stadio delle Alpi, so the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium -- for Spurs have followed Juve's model until they too secure naming rights -- is rising, gleaming and monstrous, directly from White Hart Lane's ashes.
If Spurs want an example of a club which has thrived after building a new home, they need look no further than Wednesday's opponents and Daniel Levy, the Spurs chairman, might reasonably ask Agnelli for advice over sandwiches in the directors' box.
Juve are a giant of European football and they have dominated the Serie A in waves since 1930. But Lichtsteiner's goal raised the curtain on a new era of unprecedented domestic supremacy. They have won six straight titles, combining the Scudetto with the Coppa Italia in the last three seasons, and reached two of the last three Champions League finals. They have lost seven home games in six years yet few teams have dominated them as Spurs did in the 2-2 draw last month.
Spurs, similarly, hope their own move will elevate the club to another level. They have done nearly everything right since Levy appointed Mauricio Pochettino in 2014 but, as things are, they simply cannot compete financially with their Premier League rivals.
Over and over again, Pochettino has promised this will change once they move to their 61,500-seater new home.
"With the new stadium Tottenham is going be different," the manager said in January. "A different club, a different reality and everything is going to change. Tottenham is going to be one of the most attractive clubs in the world."
Juve already are and they have already done what Spurs want to do: build the best stadium in the country and maximise revenue while maintaining atmosphere.
Despite downsizing the capacity to 41,500, the Bianconeri's matchday revenue leapt from £11 million to £50m in the first year at the new stadium but the atmosphere in the steep-rising bowl, like a half-sized Camp Nou, is formidable. It is a world away from the cold and unloved Delle Alpi, with its running track.
Juve and neighbours Torino moved to the Delle Alpi after the 1990 World Cup but attendances fell steadily and by their final season there in 2005-06, the best-supported club in Italy averaged just 26,000 fans in a 70,000-seater stadium.
Spurs' new home will ooze luxury but they too hope to strike a balance between the prawn sandwich brigade and the pie-eaters. The Londoners made £45.2m in matchday revenue in 2016-17 but the corporate lounges, suites and restaurants should see that figure more than double next year.
Spurs, though, have promised that atmosphere is "at the heart" of their design and they hope the 17,000-seater single-tier stand -- the largest of its kind in Europe -- will become as iconic as Liverpool's Kop or Borussia Dortmund's Yellow Wall. Juve have combined two groups of Ultras together in the Curva Nord to create an intimidating stand of their own.
There are other broad similarities between the two projects, like the regeneration of forgotten northern suburbs and the promise of all-year round events.
"We will touch this season 160 non-matchday events: conventions, dinners, birthdays," said Gianello. "We went very close also for a marriage but then the bride understood last minute that it would have been here and she said no."
Spurs, with their 10-year NFL deal and the prospect of concerts, hope to do even better. Ultimately, however, the contrasts between the projects make direct comparisons problematic. As Gianello acknowledged humorously, there is a "small difference" in cost: Juve's redevelopment of the Delle Alpi -- for they did not demolish the old stadium completely and some elements of it remain, connecting the past and present -- cost just €150m; Spurs' project will be closer to €1bn.
"The payback, because of the success of the stadium, is less than expected," Gianello said, while Spurs should yet feel the pinch of a loan in excess of £400m.
Juve were the first club in Italy to build and own their own stadium and, given the antipathy towards the Delle Alpi, it was easy for the supporters to immediately feel at home. White Hart Lane, a much loved stadium, will be harder to forget.
As even Gianello acknowledges, there is much more behind Juventus' ascent than a new stadium. Agnelli has been modernising the club since taking control in May 2010, a year before the move, with shrewd behind-the-scenes appointments, including that of Gianello himself, who had been at the club in another role for the previous 14 years.
Juve's return home also coincided with the arrivals of Antonio Conte as coach and Pirlo and Arturo Vidal in midfield, key factors in their recent dominance, while Agnelli's ability to cope with loss has been remarkable. The club went to a new level after Massimiliano Allegri replaced Conte, and they retained the league and cup double and reached the Champions League final after Paul Pogba, their best player, was sold.
As Spurs' stadium nears completion for the start of next season, there are perhaps more pertinent questions, then, that Levy should ask Agnelli, who might remind the chairman that the hard work has only just begun.
Dan is ESPN FC's Tottenham correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Dan_KP.