Congratulations Beppe Marotta. Today sees the Juventus director general celebrate his 60th birthday, and while those who don’t follow Italian football closely may not be too familiar with his name, they’ll almost certainly have admired his work. There have been endless debates over the past few years about “Antonio Conte’s Juventus” compared to Max Allegri’s version, in truth neither would have enjoyed any success without the skill and foresight of the Varese native.
His career began with his hometown club, appointed head of their youth development program at the age of just 21. Eventually he progressed into the same role he now holds in Turin, helping Varese reach Serie B as he became a respected operator on the transfer market, before moving on to Monza, Como and Ravenna.
By 1995 he landed a job with Venezia, building a team that reignited the ailing Arancioneroverdi and ending their 30-year exile from the Italian top flight. It was Marotta who brought Alvaro Recoba to the club, the Uruguayan star almost single-handedly ensuring they stayed in Serie A with 11 goals and nine assists in just 19 appearances.
Realising that the club could not sustain themselves, he joined Atalanta where he stayed just two seasons before taking on the task of improving Sampdoria. It was with the Genoa-based club where Marotta truly became known for his ability to mould a squad, making deals for Angelo Palombo, Giampaolo Pazzini and even signing Antonio Casaano from Real Madrid. He did well with coaches too, the likes of Walter Novellino, Walter Mazzarri and Gigi Delneri all enhancing their reputations after joining the Blucerchiati.
He also built a fine relationship with sporting director Fabio Paratici during this time, handing him control of scouting and youth development. Sampdoria finished fourth in 2009/10 to earn a place in the Champions League playoffs, but Marotta was already packing his bags, the challenge of trying to restore Juventus too great an opportunity to pass up.
This was the summer of 2010 and the director brought Paratici and Delneri with him from Sampdoria. Over the next twelve months, the trio learnt that life with the Bianconeri was different to what they had previously experienced, that the approach which saw them thrive in the provinces would simply not be enough for the Old Lady.
Marotta made serious mistakes on the transfer market during that first season, the likes of Marco Motta, Jorge Martinez and Milos Krasic each struggling to live up to the high expectations that came with representing Juventus. There were still some smart moves however, the €15.5million acquisition of Leonardo Bonucci undoubtedly foremost among them, while picking up Andrea Barzagli from Wolfsburg for just €300,000 now looks like an incredible bargain.
— Adam Digby (@Adz77) March 25, 2017
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Finishing seventh and without European football, Delneri was fired as Marotta quickly recalibrated. A former Juve Captain, Conte was identified as the man who could bring back the fighting spirit that the team so sorely lacked, while the signings became more in tune with what long-time fans of the Bianconeri expected.
Arturo Vidal cost just €10.5million while Stephan Lichtsteiner was slightly cheaper, both becoming cornerstones of the new look side. Yet the crowning moment was undoubtedly the free agent signing of Andrea Pirlo, the 2006 World Cup winner cast aside by AC Milan who had let his contract expire.
Over the previous year, Pirlo had looked a shadow of his former self, but the new surroundings of Juventus Stadium proved to be just the tonic and the bearded maestro delivered in spectacular fashion. Marotta still made a couple of mis-steps however – Eljero Elia anyone? – but there was little doubt that the director had become one of the best in the business as his team lifted the Scudetto without losing a single game.
Two more would quickly follow, Marotta continuing his stellar work in picking up free transfers as he signed Paul Pogba, Kingsley Coman and Fernando Llorente without spending a single penny. “Working with Marotta is like being at Harvard,” Paratici said of his friend and mentor recently. “You keep learning everyday.”
A move for Carlos Tevez lifted the Bianconeri to new heights, but Conte’s decision to quit on the second day of pre-season training ahead of the 2014/15 campaign rocked the club to its core. How could they survive without their charismatic leader, the very man who instilled the famous Spirito Juve back into the club that had previously looked so lost before his arrival?
Marotta shocked everyone by appointing Max Allegri, who had been fired by Milan just four months earlier. While fans threw eggs and insults when the two men arrived at the training ground in Vinovo, they quietly went to work and the results were staggering. A first league-and-cup double in twenty years was secured, while the new boss also guided his team to the Champions League final in his debut season.
Yet more surprising exits followed as Tévez, Vidal and Pirlo all moved on. Marotta again delivered, signing Sami Khedira in another free transfer coup, but he was clearly not intending to merely keep the team afloat. The past two summers have again seen the director raise the bar, adding the likes of Alex Sandro (€26million), Miralem Pjanić (€32million) and Gonzalo Higuain (€90million) all with one clear aim.
“We've strengthened our squad and feel ready to tackle this season's Champions League,” he said last summer. “We want to go as far as possible.” A quarter-final meeting with Barcelona now awaits, while the team is also on the verge of becoming the first Italian team to win six consecutive Serie A titles.
Beppe Marotta has been the architect of that success, he has shaped the club’s recent past and prepared it for a bright future. Many happy returns direttore!