Berlusconi to sell AC Milan to Chinese: reports

AC Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi could sell the club to a group with direct links to the Chinese government in a move that would see both Milan giants come under Asian ownership, reports in Italy said on Thursday.

Berlusconi to sell AC Milan to Chinese: reports
AC Milan has struggled to keep the pace in Serie A. AC Milan photo: Shutterstock

Speculation surrounding the eventual sale of seven-time European champions AC Milan has intensified in the past year amid the club's struggle to keep the pace in Serie A, and their recurring failure to qualify for Europe.

Filippo Inzaghi's Milan side currently sit eighth in the Italian top flight, 14 points off the third and last Champions League qualifying spot and 29 points behind leaders Juventus.

Amid an ongoing crisis in Serie A, Berlusconi has failed to invest heavily in top players. Instead, speculation surrounding his reported desire to wash his hands of the club has increased.

The latest reports quoted Berlusconi as saying "the sale of 75 percent of the club to the Chinese has been done". The remarks, according to Askanews, were made by Berlusconi on Tuesday night during a private event.

Gazzetta dello Sport was among several media outlets to report the story and the Italian sports daily said the 75 percent stake could sell for between €1 billion and €1.5 billion.

Milan are said to be among the most popular foreign clubs in China and the push for Berlusconi to sell, according to Gazzetta, has come directly from the Chinese government as they look to raise the sport's profile in the country.

The report added that Berlusconi has demanded that his daughter Barbara, currently a joint CEO of the club along with Adriano Galliani, remains as the club's administrator in any future deal.

Berlusconi is reported to be meeting a Chinese delegation in the coming days in Arcore, but it would not be the first time the Italian media tycoon and two-time former Prime Minister has entertained potential buyers.

Reports last month claimed Berlusconi had signed a preliminary agreement to sell 30 percent of the club to Thai businessman Bee Taechaubol at the end of May for €250 million.

In February, Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin, who recently bought influential Swiss sports marketing giants Infront for €1.05 billion as well as a 20 percent stake in defending Spanish champions Atletico Madrid, had entered the fray as a possible investor.

Berlusconi's company, Fininvest, has consistently denied that a majority stake in the club was on the market. On Thursday, Fininvest had yet to comment on the recent revelations.

If the deal were to go through, Milan would become the second Serie A club to be sold to Asian investors. Indonesian tycoon Erick Thohir bought a 70 percent stake in Inter Milan in November 2013.

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Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players’ ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome

Italy’s national football team reportedly insisted on taking an open-top bus tour through Rome to show off their European Championship trophy to crowds of fans - despite city authorities forbidding it amid concern about the spread of coronavirus.

Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players' ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome
Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

The team’s bus parade through the city on Monday night following their Euro 2020 triumph “was not authorised”, according to Matteo Piantedosi the head of Rome’s prefettura (the public safety authority).

Thousands of fans packed the streets of central Rome to see the team celebrate their cup win after beating England on penalties in the final.

READ ALSO: ‘Football came home’: Italy celebrates Euro 2020 victory over England

Piantedosi told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Wednesday: “We had denied permission to celebrate Italy’s victory in the European Championships on the open bus, but the pact was not respected.”

Piantedosi, who is Rome’s top public security official, said police had “no choice” but to let the parade go ahead after players Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci insisted on it.

Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

A meeting had been held on Friday with the Italian football federation (FIGC) to discuss plans for the celebrations if Italy won, said Piantedosi.

“I had agreed the line with Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese and Chief of Police Lamberto Giannini,” he said.

“It was clearly explained that [the parade] was not possible. We said we could not authorize it.”

Piantedosi said the Italian football federation (FIGC) initially agreed to hold a “controlled” ceremony in Rome’s central Piazza del Popolo instead of the parade.

After players insisted on the bus tour on Monday however, Piantedosi said, authorities reluctantly let them go ahead due to fears of sparking public disorder.

“At that point we had no choice but to acknowledge the situation and handle it in the best way we could,” he said.

READ ALSO: Covid cases on the rise in Europe once again as WHO warns of Euro 2020 risk

Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

In a statement on Wednesday, the FIGC said it had acted responsibly but decided not to disappoint fans who had come to celebrate with the team.

Footage of large crowds thronging the bus carrying the ‘Azzurri’ and the European Championship trophy through the capital however fuelled concerns about new outbreaks of coronavirus, after Italy’s infection rate began to rise again last week.

The World Health Organization warned earlier this month that crowds and gatherings connected to football matches will fuel a new rise in cases across Europe this summer.

READ ALSO: Delta variant in Italy will be ‘prevalent within 10 days’: health official

Italy’s health minister Roberto Speranza also voiced concerns on Monday about the consequences of people gathering to watch sporting events.

He said the European football championship win was “a great joy after terrible months,” but “even in these moments of national pride we can’t forget that our ‘game’ to defeat Covid is not yet won.”

There are currently minimal health restrictions in place across Italy, however masks are supposed to be worn in crowded public places, including outdoors.

“Footage shows that police were virtually the only ones [in the crowd] wearing masks,” said Piantedosi.