The first time I ever heard of the word was while reading Luciano Moggi’s autobiography “Il Pallone lo Porto io” which in many ways is so fitting. Juventus’s notorious former sporting director used the terms “plusvalenza da urlo” (a capital gain to scream about) in two different chapters to describe the substantial positive financial impacts of selling both Zinedine Zidane and Zlatan Ibrahimovic while he was running the bBianconeri’s mercato before the Calciopoli scandal.
Because he had acquired the two legendary players for a bargain fee before they broke out on the international stage and kept them a few seasons in Turin, there was a substantial gain to be made even with Ibrahimovic who left for Inter at a below market value when Juventus were abruptly relegated. As many remember, the Zidane sale to Real Madrid brought in such a big pluslvalenza that Moggi was able to acquire Lilian Thuram, Gianluigi Buffon and Pavel Nedved with the proceeds.
So while the term “plusvalenza”- which is the amount a selling club earns above the remaining amortized value for a player they are moving to another team- has been around for a long time, it feels that this is the summer where even a Serie A fan who has no interest in accounting has finally heard about it.
While a plusvalenza has a positive impact on clubs’ bottom line, this summer it has often been used with a negative connotation. As a matter a fact, Plusvalenza FC is now competing with Piemonte Calcio as the new ironic way to refer to Juventus while both Roma and especially Inter have been accused of using creative accounting with their sales in an effort to use plusvalenze to meet their Financial Fair Play parameters (this is even more relevant when you consider that Chievo received a point deduction at the start of last season as punishment for a series of questionable plusvalenze with Cesena).
Moggi certainly was the Godfather of the plusvalenza, but the prime of his management career came in Serie A’s glory days when almost all teams were flush with cash. Nowadays between Financial Fair Play and most Italian clubs carrying substantial debts, plusvalenza is becoming an essential tool when it comes to survival and fielding competitive teams.
Juventus fans have seen the good and bad sides of plusvalenze in past two years. The club was essentially able to cover the cost of the transfer fee to acquire Cristiano Ronaldo by selling likes of Audero, Sturaro, Cerri and Mandragora to mid-table teams in Serie A. These players had been previously bought more as future financial instruments than building blocks for the team and after owning them for a bit, Juventus flipped them for a considerably higher amount than their remaining amortized value.
Plusvalenze used to acquire an all time great like Cristiano Ronaldo are easy to digest, especially when they involve players that aren’t able part of the squad, but it then becomes much more painful to see the likes of Moise Kean, Leonardo Spinazzola and Joao Cancelo leave to generate the profits necessary to maintain a squad that features Ronaldo, newly acquired De Ligt and numerous veterans earning over 7 million after taxes a season.
Cancelo and Spinazzola generated a substantial profit despite spending just one season in Turin, as part of those deals Juventus also acquired Danilo and Luca Pellegrini. It’s hard to argue that the Bianconeri are considerably weaker at the wing back position as a result of the two transactions, but the financial gains on the transactions are what helped pay for acquiring the likes of De Ligt and Demiral. The same applies to Rabiot and Ramsey, who despite signing on a Bosman deal come with substantial annual salaries.
On top of paying for an expensive squad, Juventus posted a significant loss during their last fiscal year. There is the obvious spending to secure Ronaldo (and to pay for his salary), but also the Bianconeri didn’t make a very deep run in the Champions League thus limiting their revenue. To help compensate for the recent expenses and difficult financial outcome, Juventus had to also sacrifice Moise Kean who was sold for 30 million to Everton.
While some complained about the low return, Kean was also in the last deal of his year and at least his entire transfer fee was a plusvalenza since he had no amortized value as a home grown player. For the same reason, Milan strongly encouraged Patrick Cutrone to accept Wolvehampton’s offer- the plusvalenza generated by that transaction can essentially cover the annual cost of all of the Rossoneri’s new additions this summer.
On the other side of Milan, Inter have perfected the art of generating plusvalenze to help meet their Financial Fair Play parameters. While moving Nicolo Zaniolo in the Radja Nainggolan deal certainly came back to bite them, overall the Nerazzurri have done very well selling their Primavera players (who in almost all cases are pure plusvalenze when sold since they tend not to have amortized values to offset) to balance their budget, their most recent accounting masterpiece featured Zinho Vanheudsen joining Standard Liege for over 12 million.
It’s certainly understandable that fans mainly just care about seeing their squads improve in the summer, and someone who is Juventus’ sporting director has to accept that you can go from being a called a genius on the day you sign De Ligt to being called a bumbling fool for selling Cancelo on top of considering selling Dybala- but there are usually connections between the two things, as Moggi taught us a “plusvalenza da urlo” can also net you three champions like Buffon, Thuram and Nedved because you sold Zidane at the right time.