Giovanni Agnelli thought there might be a future in horseless carriages, so in 1899 he cofounded Fabbrica Italiana di Automobili Torino, or Fiat. In 1923 he arranged for his son Edoardo to become president of one of Turin’s football clubs, Juventus. Today Giovanni’s great-grandson Andrea runs Juve. The alliance between Italy’s unofficial “royal family”, its manufacturing behemoth and its dominant football team is the longest family ownership in top-level international sport.

To understand how power works in Italy, therefore, requires understanding Juventus. With Juve!, the British author Herbie Sykes has written a potted history of modern Italy disguised as a football book, told in his distinctive voice: fond, chatty, distanced and sometimes hilarious...

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