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Soccer Superstar Cristiano Ronaldo Deal Ignites Strike at Italian Fiat Chrysler Plant

Tony Markovich
Photo credit: Getty/Patrick Smith - Car and Driver

From Car and Driver

Global soccer megastar Cristiano Ronaldo will remember July 2018 for the rest of his life. Shortly following his Portugal team’s round-of-16 loss to Uruguay in the FIFA World Cup, he was the subject of a deal that amounted to a massive payout even for professional sports. Italian Serie A team Juventus agreed to pay La Liga squad Real Madrid the equivalent of about $117 million for the right to sign 33-year-old Ronaldo to a four-year contract. The huge deal has implications beyond soccer, however. Because Juventus and Fiat Chrysler are partly controlled by the same owners, the announcement has triggered a union strike at Fiat Chrysler’s Melfi plant in Italy.

Italy’s Agnelli family, represented by an investment holding company called Exor, own 29 percent of Fiat and 64 percent of Juventus. Due to recent economic hardships, the Fiat factories in Italy have been faced with numerous difficulties, including extended temporary layoffs. Taking umbrage at the malicious irony of layoffs while the same parent company pays tens of millions of dollars for an athlete, Italian union Unione Sindacale Di Base announced plans to strike. The action, which does not include all workers at the production plant, will take place from Sunday, July 15, to Tuesday, July 17. The plant makes the Fiat 500X and the Jeep Renegade.

“The property should invest in car models that guarantee the future of thousands of people rather than enriching only one,” the union said in a public statement.

During his time with Real Madrid, Ronaldo cemented himself as one of the all-time greats ever to play the game. During his nine years with the Spanish team, he scored 450 goals in 438 games. He has led the Champions League, the ultimate level of competition in Europe, in goals scored in a season for six straight years and has won the Ballon d’Or award for individual accomplishment five times.

Nothing displays the intersection of Juventus and Fiat Chrysler more prominently than the Juventus uniforms worn during games. On top of the black-and-white-striped jerseys, the Jeep logo is displayed front and center. According to Bloomberg, via Apex Marketing Group, should Juventus make it to the Champions League finals, the media exposure could be valued at more than $50 million. That means little to laid-off workers struggling to support their families, though. The result is that Fiat Chrysler workers may see the soccer club’s well-being as antithetical to their own.

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