Interview with Blazquez (Genoa CEO): «From finances to transfer market, from international disputes to the new stadium: Grifone's plans»

The CEO of Genoa spoke exclusively to Calcio e Finanza about Grifone’s finances, the plans for the stadium, the transfer market, and the state of health of 777 Partners.

(Foto: Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images)

Given its prestige, history, fanbase, and catchment area, Genoa should always be in the league standings where clubs like Fiorentina or Torino typically are. This year we weren’t far off, but it is only the certainty of consistently being in that tier that allows you to plan medium-term investments without the fear of relegation to Serie B. To achieve this, however, we still need to grow economically. It’s also true that a season like the one Sassuolo had could always happen, where they slipped into Serie B despite the skill of managers like their CEO Giovanni Carnevali.

In his extensive exclusive interview with Calcio e Finanza, Andrés Blazquez, CEO of Genoa since March 2022, explained the club’s strategy for the coming years, covering topics from economics to the transfer market, sports geopolitics to multi-ownership. This is a familiar topic for him since Italy’s oldest football club has been controlled by the US fund 777 Partners since September 2021, which also owns Hertha Berlin, Standard Liège, the historic Red Star (a Parisian team), Vasco da Gama, and a minority stake in Sevilla.

The starting point for all his considerations is always of an economic and business sustainability nature. The goal, he explains, is to achieve €100 million in recurring revenues (excluding difficult-to-plan player trading profits) within three to four years. Only in this way, explains the Spanish manager, can the club afford a net wage bill of €40-50 million, which is necessary to then aim for European competition qualifications. “Our goal is efficiency in using economic resources. To aim for better positions, we need to look at the costs of the squads participating in European competitions, especially in terms of amortization. We are at a level that is between half and a third of the clubs participating in these competitions, except for Bologna which has done something fantastic this season. To create a competitive team, we still need to adjust our costs. If we manage to assemble a squad with a €40 million wage bill, we would have a competitive team for European competitions. But to get to that point, we need at least a few more years.”

In short, for Blazquez, who was previously a Senior Advisor at Guggenheim Partners and the founder and managing partner of Caucasus Capital Partners (one of the pioneers of private equity investors in the Caucasus), Genoa under 777 Partners is still in a period of corporate consolidation, and the manager expects to fully implement his management vision within a timeframe of three years, if not sooner, by the 2025/26 season. “If we manage to bring recurring revenues to around €90-95 million in the next three years (Genoa will reach €75 million in 2023/24 from stadium revenue, TV rights, sponsorships, and merchandising) while creating a sustainable team, we can achieve a €50-55 million wage bill.” The point about recurring revenues is significant because, he explains: “For me, making capital gains is not managing; it’s being lucky.” Business sustainability, on the other hand, must be achieved through stable channels, such as stadium revenues, TV rights, and commercial income, without relying on the chance of discovering talents that other teams pay a fortune for. “Because this strategy might work for a year or two, but it’s difficult for a club to consistently discover talent to place on the market and balance the books every season.”

In this context, aside from TV rights, which are distributed in Serie A according to the mechanisms of the Melandri Law, an important channel is the loyalty of Genoa fans, who, according to the spectator rankings by Calcio e Finanza, ranked seventh this year with a 96% occupancy rate at Marassi. Moreover, “with minimal modifications this year, Genoa is above €12 million in matchday revenue and hospitality, almost three times what it was when we came in,” explains Blazquez.


That said, also in Genoa, as in almost all other Italian cities, stadium renovation is an important, if not strategic, issue. “The facilities in Italy are not at the level of a top league like Serie A. There are very few stadiums that match the European level.” In Milan, he continues, “Inter and Milan, despite having an outdated facility, earn millions in revenue from each match, while we are at €300,000 per match. I think that a suitably renovated and updated Luigi Ferraris could bring in €700,000 in matchday revenue through ticketing, hospitality, and merchandising.”

As a Spanish manager, he cannot help but compare with La Liga and the missed opportunity for Serie A called CVC (a fund deal heavily discussed between 2020 and 2021). “You can agree or disagree with the CVC-La Liga deal, but it has improved the governance of many Spanish clubs and has led La Liga to grow more than the others among the big 5 (Italy, Germany, Spain, England, and France). The stadiums in Spain are newer and updated even where the stadium is not owned, as in the cases of Betis in Seville and Athletic in Bilbao. Clubs have developed relationships with public administrations with long-term leases. In short, a club does not need to own the facility to carry out works.”

In this context, Blazquez hopes that the race Genoa must necessarily undertake to host the matches of Euro 2032 (Italy will organize the tournament with Turkey and will have five venues available, three of which are already confirmed: Milan, Rome, and Turin) will motivate public authorities, even though he is perfectly aware that recent scandals in the Liguria Region do not help this process. “We believe that the regional authority can contribute to the Ferraris, if only for reasons of fairness with La Spezia, where it guaranteed a third of the stadium expenses. Moreover, Marco Bucci is one of the most hardworking mayors I have ever met, and we are fortunate that he is in favor of the facility’s renovation because it could be a significant urban change for the Marassi neighborhood.”

In this context, it should be noted that relations with Sampdoria are cordial. “We have talked about the Ferraris, and we agree on the project; we are working together on the modifications and want to proceed with the stadium renovation to bring it to UEFA category 4,” explains Blazquez. “It is clear that the sooner we start, the better. We were ready a year ago and had to respect the situation Sampdoria was going through to do it together. Once the ownership changed, we started working very productively. I don’t know if Genoa will ultimately be chosen, but for us, it could be a business matter, with additional expenses that we wouldn’t normally have to face, but we will tackle them to try to win the Euro bid. And above all, for a more modern stadium with more efficient services and adding others that are currently missing.”

Regarding commercial revenue channels, numerous initiatives have recently been launched to regain fans in traditional Genoa supporter strongholds (a new store was launched in Savona at the end of 2023) but also to expand the club’s natural fan base, for example, in areas of southern Piedmont (where there are already many Grifone supporters) and the far western Liguria, a region where passion often escapes the Superba teams. “We have done marketing campaigns in different areas, but there is a lot of work to do. This is part of our growth: the goal is €100 million in recurring revenue for the club, and that must be our guiding star.”


On a more technical level, the club has decided to change its fiscal year to align with the sports season. The Preziosi era left a financial year ending on December 31st, but now, after a brief six-month accounting period from January 1, 2024, to June 30, 2024, the club will start having annual accounts ending on June 30th in line with the sports season. “The hope is to reach 80 million in recurring revenue as soon as possible (as of December 31, 2023, the latest official data available, it was just over 44 million). Once fully operational, the ambition is that perhaps by 2025/26, it will be the first year in which we have a team capable of aiming for European competitions.”

It should be noted that the 2023 budget closed with a deficit of 32 million, but the losses would have been higher if it weren’t for the positive impact (around 56 million euros) from debt cancellation, following an agreement with the Revenue Agency. This measure used by Genoa has irritated numerous Serie A clubs, who saw it as a financial shortcut. Clubs that have used it have always explained that if the law exists, it can be used, and nothing prevents those who criticized it from using it in the future. It’s also worth noting that Sampdoria is among the clubs that have used this tool. However, Genoa’s approach was a simplified restructuring with the sole Revenue Agency, applicable to a situation of non-irreversible crisis, a “light” crisis that resulted in a benefit to the economic result and net equity.

In this context, it should also be noted that the 2023 budget includes half a year in Serie B (and therefore with lower revenues since TV rights in the second division are not substantial) and half a year in Serie A with significant revenues. Future budgets will always enjoy, at least according to Blazquez and 777 Partners’ forecasts, the benefits of participating in the top national league.

Moreover, the budget still suffers from suspended losses during the Covid emergency, around 80 million euros, not yet amortized. This situation, Blazquez explains, will continue to impact the income statement starting from 2024 and will likely require a couple of seasons to normalize, even though EBITDA as of June 30th will still be positive and around 10 million euros. “If everything were normal, we would already be profitable next season,” he notes, emphasizing once again how 2024/25 could be the turning point and acceleration year.

Although not at the core of Blazquez’s strategy, any capital gains will evidently not be cursed by the club’s finances, and like everyone else, Genoa will be active in the market. The idea is to strengthen the team available to coach Gilardino, to the point that even the sale of goalkeeper Josep Martinez was not anticipated. “Martinez is almost an Inter player now, and there are other players we will sell this summer, but mostly not the starters. We aim for a positive impact of 10-12 million while being able to invest, as we did with Vitinha, also in anticipation of some exits.”

Another prized asset in the Rossoblu squad is the Icelander Gudmundsson, who, however, will face a trial for sexual assault in his home country in the fall. “The investigation into Gudmundsson has not influenced the clubs’ interest in him. It is a complex trial, although the player has always maintained his innocence, and we believe him. I say his situation has not been affected because the market for attackers has not yet started. Otherwise, we are looking for a right-back, with Spence whom we want to keep, but it depends on Tottenham. Then we will do something in midfield, but few things since the defense is settled. For Retegui, the idea is to keep him unless there are extravagant offers. Of course, if there is an exit, we will do something in return. The goal is also to climb the standings and we want the team to be even better than last year. You see,” he continues, “if I wanted to fix the accounts immediately, I would sell the best players, and the budget would benefit immediately, but for what future? As I explained, all our initiatives are aimed at increasing recurring revenues so as not to finance ourselves through player sales.”

Likewise, Blazquez continues, 777 Partners has not come to say to sell the club. “I have no indication from them about this; the instructions are to continue investing and growing the club’s value in the long term.”


While everything seems to be going well for 777 Partners in Italy, it is not the same abroad. The U.S. fund led by Josh Wander and Steven Pasko saw their offer to buy Everton blocked due to failure to meet some conditions imposed by the Premier League. Then there are the problems of Standard Liege, the market blocks at Vasco da Gama in Brazil. Additionally, outside of football, the division has experienced significant issues with the airline Bonza, and the revocation of the license for the basketball league in the United Kingdom. In short, beyond Italian borders, many argue that the business model is struggling.

On this subject, Blazquez is more diplomatic. “You know, I, like everyone here, am an employee of Genoa and not of 777 Partners, and what happens above our heads we sometimes know mainly from the press,” explains the Spanish manager. “What I can say is that our relationships with our shareholders have not changed in the slightest, and our work is normal. Moreover, at the group level, we aim to become more independent with very transparent management, with the hiring of external personalities. For instance, a board member of Genoa linked to 777 Partners has now resigned, and we will insert an independent person from the finance world and not from football. This will not be the only one; we want to place at least two such people on the board.”

Regarding the group’s situation, Blazquez continues, “I speak almost as an outsider in this case. There is a creditor called A-Cap, there has been a confrontation with them, and from what we understand, an agreement has been reached to settle the governance at the level of football activities. That issue is external to us even though it affects us at a media level, but at the level of ordinary work, things have not changed. We do financial checks weekly with the group, and nothing has changed. There are absolutely no problems concerning the Genoa world.”

Blazquez says he is satisfied with being part of a multi-club ownership and the advantages it brings. First of all, scouting, having the opportunity for continuous comparisons with experienced and diverse personalities. Then there’s marketing, with the possibility of making group-level agreements at lower costs. And the negative aspects? “Sometimes it is thought that one team is more important than another (in the City Football Group, Manchester City is the guiding star). In our case, the group aims to succeed with all teams on their path. The steps are more related to the leagues than the clubs; for example, Serie A is decidedly higher than Belgium and slightly higher than Portugal. Expanding? At the moment, we are not thinking about expanding the group; we might do it in the next 12 months, but for now, we stop.”

Finally, regarding the reforms many hope for in Italian football, Blazquez supports the idea, similar to what happens in Spain, of more delegations for the CEO of Serie A: “A different governance would make Serie A grow.” Conversely, he is against the idea of lowering the top league to 18 teams. “Planning for medium clubs like us is much more complicated than for top clubs because we don’t know where we will be in three years, while they are sure of staying in the top national league.”