There was a Chinese feel to this Milan derby, which for once lived up to the hype even if the status of the two clubs has fallen in recent years. AC Milan’s sale to Chinese group Rossoneri Sport Investment Lux was finally confirmed this week and the Derby della Madonnina, as it is known, kicked off lunchtime Saturday to better suit TV audiences in Asia.
If this is the future of Milanese football, maybe the fans will take it: Inter raced out to a two-goal lead through Antonio Candreva and Mauro Icardi, but Milan responded. Alessio Romagnoli pulled one back before Cristian Zapata, with the last kick of the game, bundled the ball past Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic. The referee used goal-line technology to rule the ball had indeed crossed the line, thus killing dead weeks of speculation around the goal. This technology works.
Milan’s previous owner, Silvio Berlusconi was in charge for 31 years and won 29 titles in that time, including eight league championships and five European Cups/Champions Leagues. He invested over £700 million in players during his time in charge. In a statement published on the club website, he said: “I leave with pain and emotion, but with the knowledge that the modern game, to compete at the highest European and world levels, needs investment and resources that a single family is no longer able to support.”
Rossoneri Sport paid around £630 million for the club, the biggest Chinese investment in any European side so far, much more than the £220 million that retail company Jiangsu Suning Commerce Group paid for Internazionale last summer.
However, the Inter fans have far fewer questions of their new owners. Suning already owns a team in China, Jiangsu Suning, which finished as runner-up in last season’s Chinese Super League, and the company’s revenues total over £15 billion. Li Yonghong, the frontman of Rossoneri Sport, needed eight months to get his deal over the line and when he did, he took a large loan (with a huge interest fee) from an American hedge fund.
Milan fans can be optimistic about the young talents that have broken through in recent seasons, among them goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma (18), defender Romagnoli (22) and midfielder Manuel Locatelli (19). But Li’s new plan depends on raising revenues by getting back into the Champions League and building a new stadium, something that was even beyond Berlusconi, a former Italian prime minister.
Rossoneri Sport is promising more investment, but Inter looks better set for the long term.