It all started – sort of – when Silvio Berlusconi was convinced to sell his prized asset. Over the period before Berlusconi decided to sell there had been a few rumours that informal offers were made and were dismissed outright by the owner. The man, his family and his media company finally decided to let go in 2014 or 2015. The Mr.Bee saga failed for lack of investors and later Yonghong Li’s offer was reviewed and accepted. Throughout it all Berlusconi promised to hand over Milan to safe hands, hands that will invest and return Milan to the top.
An initial big investment was made of course but as it turned out didn’t rescue the team, the 2017-2018 season had ups and downs but mostly the latter. In the year plus since the sale became official it has been any thing but safe hands. Some of the blame can perhaps be attributed to China’s cash export restrictions but as has been often reported Li has been far more questionable that that. Li did manage to satisfy Fininvest and they have surely gotten a good chunk of the (inflated) €740 million sale price. They have been too silent not to have but this doesn’t mean that there are not many unanswered questions about Li’s wealth.
The issue however is the €300 million lent to Li by Elliott Management Corporation. Various amounts raised and deposited for team operations have been enough to keep Li in charge and Elliott on the side lines but UEFA’s rejection – and referral of Milan’s case to its Adjudicatory Chamber – of Milan’s Financial Fair Play plan and the inability to show a source of wealth have Milan sitting on the edge of losing an owner and being taken over by the money fund. If UEFA act further and either fine or restrict Milan from the Europa league or transfer activity the once great name of football will be very damaged.
Transfer rumours continue unabated however. Various big names are supposedly on the shopping list, including a midfielder, left winger and striker. One or all are sorely needed to increase the goal production that was a major part of not finishing in the top four in the season that just concluded. The need to rectify the failures despite spending over €200 million in summer 2017 are very real. Not qualifying for the Champions League has handcuffed Li more than anybody in the team’s management admits. In June UEFA will make a decision on the severity of penalties that Milan face and the worse may yet to come.
All things being equal it seems that many personnel changes are in the offing. Fate of Donnarumma, Kalinic and Andre Silva seem sealed. Few tears will be shed if Kalinic is sold, Silva has divided opinion and Donnarumma’s sale will be accepted after his much publicized and controversial renewal last year. Other changes are in the offing as well. Antonelli is almost certainly gone and a replacement is ready in Sampdoria’s Ivan Strinic. Pepe Reina is set to come in for Donnarumma. Any number of players can leave and come in. There is plenty of speculation to go around no mattewr what happens with the ownership situation
On the ownership, if Li loses Milan to his chief lender a new owner will be sought. Stephen Ross with links to Elliott and himself the majority owner of National Football League’s Miami Dolphins is a speculated interested party.
Uncertain times ahead. Berlusconi’s promise seems hollow indeed.