Captain to chief negotiator: Chiellini works out salary cuts

Best known for his aggressive defending on the soccer field, Giorgio Chiellini is proving to be an effective negotiator in the board room, too.

Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini   -  Getty Images

Best known for his aggressive defending on the soccer field, Giorgio Chiellini is proving to be an effective negotiator in the board room, too.

The Juventus captain — who has a master’s degree in business administration — was the main go-between for millionaire teammates like Cristiano Ronaldo and management when the squad agreed to forgo 90 million euros ($100 million) in wages to help the club during the coronavirus crisis.

The first agreement of its kind in Serie A since play was halted last month set the precedent that other clubs are preparing to follow.

Chiellini first spoke with (club president Andrea Agnelli), then with us, Juventus forward Paulo Dybala said.

We discussed it in a chat and there were different opinions. There were players who were lacking one or two games to reach a bonus, but this was the best thing to do, added Dybala, one of three Juventus players to test positive for COVID-19.

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The deal allows Juventus to avoid paying four months of wages, or a third of players’ salaries, before closing its fiscal calendar-year on June 30 — a savings made even more crucial since Juventus shares are listed on the Milan stock exchange.

Chiellini’s key achievement was that players will reportedly get back about half of their missed salaries after June 30, or perhaps even more if this season’s Serie A resumes. Juventus declined to comment when asked if wages would be deferred to next season.

Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri was also involved in the deal worked out by Chiellini.

Juventus would like to thank the players and the coach for their commitment at a difficult time for everyone, the club said in a statement announcing the deal over the weekend.

While Chiellini is Juventus’ player representative for the Italian soccer players’ association (AIC), the deal with the eight-time defending Serie A champion came before the AIC could work out a unilateral league-wide agreement over reducing salaries with the country’s soccer governance.

Juventus went ahead but that didn’t surprise us. We knew all about it, AIC president Damiano Tommasi said. If there are no disagreements between a club and its players, we don’t feel the need to intervene. If they’ve come to an agreement, that’s fine as is.

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Negotiations at other clubs have not all been so harmonious.

On Monday when Lionel Messi and his Barcelona teammates said that they were taking a 70% cut in salaries, it came in a letter that criticized club officials for putting too much pressure on them to do something that we always knew we would be doing.

Salary talks between players and clubs are ongoing in the Premier League and elsewhere around Europe, too.

The 35-year-old Chiellini, who has made no public comments about his role in the negotiations, completed a bachelor’s degree in economics and commerce at the University of Turin in 2010 and then earned his master’s in 2017, graduating cum laude — with honors.

Chiellini has always been a diligent student, ever since he attended a specialized science and numbers-oriented high school in his hometown of Livorno along the Tuscan coast. He inherited business acumen from his mother, Lucia, who managed the Mediterranean area for a Norwegian shipping company.

Chiellini’s twin brother, Claudio, is the defender’s agent and also a manager at Juventus.

Up next for the Chiellinis: working out a contract extension for Giorgio, whose current deal expires on June 30.

Despite his age, and despite the fact that Chiellini only played in three Serie A matches this season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in August, a renewal seems certain.

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