Prick of the Week No. 25: Football’s cartoonish supervillain Andrea Agnelli

Dave Tickner
Andrea Agnelli Juventus

Should be a popular one this week, at least, thanks to the noble views of a man who just wants what’s best for our wonderful sport, even if those things sound suspiciously like they might actually be absolutely f***ing terrible yet by sheer coincidence quite useful for his club, Juventus.


So who’s this week’s prick then?
European football’s cartoon supervillain Andrea Agnelli, back front and centre this week to discuss how the game can be better for e̶v̶e̶r̶y̶o̶n̶e̶  Juventus and other massive clubs, which is all that matters.


What’s he done?
Agnelli, big chief money-counter at Juventus and also head of the in-no-way nefarious and self-interested European Clubs Association, pops up from time to time with his latest wheezes for how football could be tweaked so that it finally starts looking after the handful of very big and important clubs instead of the current system which clearly makes things much harder for your Juventuses and Manchester Uniteds and Real Madrids by making them compete with all those other silly little clubs on essentially equal footing, with only vast advantages of wealth to keep them in front of the riff-raff. Obviously, this can’t go on.

Agnelli’s ideas are, almost always, entirely absurd and so nakedly geared towards big club success and profit as to be entirely beyond parody. Agnelli was the maniac, for instance, who thought trifling little Atalanta getting a Champions League place by merely ‘qualifying’ for it by ‘finishing in the Champions League qualifying positions within Serie A’ was a bit off when it meant Roma – a far bigger and more important club – didn’t get in the Champions League due to something as arbitrary as ‘not finishing in the Champions League qualifying positions within Serie A’. Were he a fictional character, he would be a caricature. His transparent self-interested schemes and wheezes would be quite fun if he really were just a cartoon supervillain. Instead, he is actually important and might well get his way on significant things because football is broken and remains resolutely determined to only become more so.

Agnelli brainfarts this week have included banning Champions League clubs from buying and selling players to and from each other, picking off only the underlings instead, which would definitely work and definitely doesn’t have any long-term problems, and also getting his beloved ‘Swiss-style’ Champions League in place from 2024. This involves 36 teams playing 10 group games each and being ranked in a single league table. The key here is that 36 teams is more than 24; nothing else matters. If the silly little teams are going to keep qualifying, then at least let’s make sure it’s not at proper big clubs’ expense, at least.

But Agnelli’s maddest nonsense of the week is his 15-minute plan. This, which we can only hope has been thought through as little as it sounds and is just a wealthy man sounding off about something nobody has yet been brave enough to tell him is utter bollocks, is a subscription plan that gets you access to the last 15 minutes of a football match because for goodness’ sake who in the year of our lord 2021 honestly has the time to sit and watch a whole interminable 90-minute match? Yawn!

“The attention span of today’s kids and tomorrow’s spenders is completely different to the one I had when I was their age,” he parped.

“If you take golf, if it’s interesting at all, it’s only the last six holes on the final day. You are not going to watch the whole thing on the TV unless you are a hardcore fan.”

Now, there’s a lot of nonsense here, but let’s go through it bit by bit. First, let’s all take a moment to enjoy the in-no-way hellish and dystopian phrase “today’s kids and tomorrow’s spenders”. Done that? Good. When you’ve finished doing a bit of sick and that gnawing pain in your stomach about the kind of world we’re leaving for our children/tomorrow’s spenders starts to subside, we’ll move on.

Now, the attention span of kids is short. It has always been short. It will always be short. They are children. This whole ‘people these days with their attention spans and their computers and their phones’ is bumwash. The single greatest entertainment phenomenon of recent years has been the exact opposite of this: binging boxsets on your Netflixes, your Sky Pluses and the Amazon Primes of this world. People don’t have shorter attention spans, they just have more choices.

Next up, a good dig at golf. Fair play, we’re always on board with someone having a pop at golf. No problems here. Golf is shit and boring. Even a stopped clock and all that. What’s that last bit, though. “You are not going to watch the whole thing on the TV unless you are a hardcore fan.” Are we still talking about the entirety of a four-day 72-hole golf tournament with over 100 competitors, or a single 90-minute football match? Because it feels to me that this comparison might have slightly lost its way and veered off into golf-bashing irrelevance. We’re on board with that, but we might be losing sight of the bigger picture.

And that bigger picture, clearly, is that despite this spin, the ’15-minute subscription’ is not going to be an additional service for those people who apparently definitely exist and consume those Netflix boxsets by simply watching the last act of each series finale (which is enough to get the gist anyway) but will instead be a tax on those who have watched the previous 75 minutes and would quite like to see how the rest pans out. Especially if Atalanta are winning, the cheating upstart bastards.


Any previous?
The Roma/Atalanta stuff, obviously. Any mad big-club-favouring idea you vaguely remember someone suggesting for the Champions League was almost certainly him. Historic wildcard entries for former winners was one of his. Clubs with less auspicious histories being condemned to the qualifying rounds was another. Oh just read this. It’s all there. There’s so much of it.


Maybe we’re being unusually forgiving in a shamefully off-brand way here, but he is a quite unusual supervillain. Despite the apparent naked self-interest and game-killing absurdity of much he suggests, his love for football does appear to be real. It cannot be ruled out that he genuinely thinks all this is for the greater good.

It should also be noted that European club football is already run almost entirely with the intention of benefitting and enriching an entrenched and established raft of clubs while the rest subsist of the remaining scraps. Agnelli just wants to pull up the few drawbridges that remain to at least theoretically threaten the status quo.


So what happens next?
The Swiss-style Champions League mess does appear to be on the cards. The transfer bans and 15-minute subscriptions are probably less likely. But that doesn’t mean vigilance is unnecessary.


Mourinho Corner
“If the stats I was given are correct, 100 goals scored in the season which for a very defensive team, a very negative team is not bad.”

He’s almost a worse prick when they’re winning, isn’t he? This is a classic piece of Mourinho shithousing. There’s the surface-level trolling, the obvious, sarcastic stuff. There’s the fact he knows Spurs have played 427 games this season and that a large chunk of those goals have come against Europa League farmers and English eighth-tier sides.

But there’s also a second level of deeper Mourinho antics here. He’s shifted the goalposts again, hasn’t he? Literally nobody has done more to play down the strength of this Spurs squad than Mourinho himself. Yet here he is swinging his 100-goal glans around for everyone to admire.

It’s also not quite the criticism anyone was making. If anything, it proves the critics right. Everybody knew this Spurs team had goals in it. Harry Kane, Heung-min Son and Gareth Bale is an attacking trio of world-class quality unmatched anywhere outside Agnelli’s Gilded Elite. And the recent rush to that 100-goal target has come about because Mourinho has finally stopped sucking the joy out of that trio and letting them run free. Like everyone told him to.

He really is king of the pricks.


Dishonourable Mentions
Arsene Wenger is a great man. An intelligent man. A learned man. That he still can’t work out why his offside plan just moves the current problems to a different part of the body, turning an excruciatingly petty law of armpits and toenails into an excruciating law of heels instead, means that he is also sadly a prick. People who fly aeroplanes with banners on them over football grounds are also pricks. Piers Morgan is also a prick. That one has nothing really to do with football, we just worried that if we didn’t say it that people might think that we don’t think he is a prick and we do. Piers Morgan is a prick.


Prick of the Week Hall of Fame
No. 24: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

No. 23: Roy Hodgson
No. 22: Harry Maguire
No. 21: Referee death threats
No. 20: Southampton
No. 19: Harry Redknapp
No. 18: Lionel Messi
No. 17: Steve Bruce and Mike Ashley
No. 16: Covid rule-breakers
No. 15: Leeds Twitter
No. 14: Mikel Arteta
No. 13: Danny Drinkwater
No. 12: Anti-Marxist Millwall
No. 11: Head injuries
No. 10: Liverpool
No. 9: Ademola Lookman
No. 8: Roy Keane
No. 7: Monday 5.30pm PPV
No. 6: Pickford, Richarlison et al
No. 5: The Big Six
No.4: Deadline Day
No. 3: David Elleray
No. 2: Frank Lampard
No. 1: Jose Mourinho