30 years have now elapsed since AC Milan was purchased by media tycoon and former Italian president Silvio Berlusconi. As divisive a figure as he has been during his time at Milan, it remains important to acknowledge the good things he has done for the club during his tenure. When the patron arrived in 1986, he was greeted by a team that, despite some promising young players in their ranks, was lacking in quality and crying out for investment. This was addressed immediately with the new president shelling out enormous amounts of money to acquire some of the world's best players.
The following decade would see Milan win 3 European cups as well as play host to some of the world's top players. Whilst a pittance by today's standards, Berlusconi spent big on the likes of Ruud Gullit, Marco Van Basten and Frank Rijkaard to build a team that would dominate both Italian and European football. This success continued into the nineties as well, and despite a few difficult years, Milan bounced back through the acquisition of players like Rui Costa, Alessandro Nesta and Filippo Inzaghi, and would enjoy similar success under the stewardship of Carlo Ancelotti.
Unfortunately, this prosperity has not lasted. That golden age of success will feel like a distant memory to most Milanisti, who are used to seeing a mediocre team struggle in a half-empty San Siro before a crowd that rightfully hold a degree of resentment towards the man at the top. The last half-decade, or even decade, depending on who you ask, have seen Milan experience a gradual decline as Berlusconi has tightened his pursestrings. Whereas Berlusconi's spending was exorbitant in the 80s and 90s, today his fortune pales in comparison with the money spent by Europe's top clubs, and so Milan have been unable to compete in the transfer market. With the majority of the club's comparatively meagre revenue coming from TV rights, the club has been left severely under-funded and has fallen behind in the Serie A pecking order.
It is the reliance on Berlusconi's funding that has put Milan in this position. The club's failure to make the necessary commercial investments and sponsorship deals that other clubs have while Milan were still at the top of the pile has meant that without the President's investment, Milan have been unable to build a team capable of competing at the top level. When he has opened his wallet, his investments have appeared to be motivated more by political interests than for the good of the team. The arrival of Mario Balotelli in 2013 is a prime example of this. Similarly, the president's denial of this situation and his refusal to build sustainably for the future through sensible investments has seen Milan take two steps back for every step they take forwards. The current team is beginning to resemble the one that greeted Berlusconi when he arrived at the club in 1986.
There's plenty of potential in Milan at the minute, but the club needs the right person to guide them forward. Investment is badly needed, but so is a clear sense of direction. Berlusconi is no longer the right man for the job, and he has not been for some time. Poor spending, a lack of patience with whoever the manager happens to be at the minute, and the collapse of the club's new stadium project are all indicators as to where the future lies for Milan. It is not with Berlusconi at the helm. Milanisti will be eternally grateful to Berlusconi for the success the club has enjoyed over the past 30 thirty years, but for Milan to be where it is now, it is increasingly clear that it is time for a change.