clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

It’s time to confront the reality of AC Milan’s off the pitch issues

The voices are growing louder, and we’d be fools to ignore the noise

AC Milan Press Conference Photo by Handout/Getty Images

The extremely popular phrase ‘ignore the haters’ is both a good and bad thing to say. Certainly, anyone with their wits about them and doing their own thing and forging their own positive path in life should carry on, regardless of what anyone is saying about them.

However, when some ‘ignore the haters’ it’s not just ignoring constructive criticism or positive intervention, it could also be ignoring reason and rationality. Sometimes, the voice of the crowd needs to be ignored. On other occasions, that same vox populi could be saving grace. It’s contextual.

It’s time to confront the reality of AC Milan’s situation. We’ve been burying our heads in the sand long enough.


AC Milan weren’t taken over in the clear of day, but under cloak and dagger. The long-running takeover saga to relinquish the rule of Silvio Berlusconi to new ownership meandered in many different directions - including the criminal.

That takes us to our biggest red flag of this seemingly sorry saga - the fact that there was a potential forgery in the takeover process that was widely reported. The idea that the takeover went through after AC Milan were offered a forged and unacknowledged bank statement is hard to believe, but here we are. The biggest problem with this isn’t even the forgery, it’s the lack of due diligence. AC Milan basically sold themselves to the first, and seemingly only person to bid for the club. Li Yonghong.

Mr Li made numerous attempts to purchase Milan. The first attempt, with his Sino-Europe group aimed to attract businessmen and investors to claim Milan for themselves. After this group fell apart and couldn’t gather the money, Li formed RSIL - and partnered with the first company to offer his new firm money.

Elliott, a vulture fund, ‘rescued’ Li’s deal for Milan. The interesting point here is that a man without the money needed to buy Milan, managed to buy an entire football club, seemingly single handedly based on the money offered up by Elliott. The catch? In exchange for the cash, Li would need to turn Milan around almost instantaneously and make enough money to pay off Elliott at ramped up rates of interest. If he fails? Milan will pass into the hands of Elliott. Much bigger entities have fallen to Elliott than AC Milan, including the Argentine Government. That’s big capital for you, and Li alongside Milan are fully in the grip of Elliott until they prove that they aren’t. To do so, they require instant and immediate success, which is slipping out of their grasp. The reality of this is that Elliott, as of now, may as well be the owners of the football club, because it is not realistic to expect that the Rossoneri will be able to climb out of this hole based on footballing success, something that is not guaranteed to even the biggest spender. They may as well have sealed a deal with Donald Trump, a man who made his name on breaking contracts, inane trickery and small text. Like Trump, Elliott played this situation, that turned out to be a gamble for Milan and Li. Even football’s other high-profile Chinese chairman, Aston Villa’s Dr Tony Xia could see that it was like a toss of the dice.

AC Milan need to find around 350 million dollars in 11 months in order to pay Elliott off. That seems like an entirely unrealistic situation. Where does the money come from if it doesn’t come from Li?

And it won’t come from Li. There has been plenty of digging from some of the best in the world, and despite translation difficulties, cultural differences, the great firewall and all of that - they actually found something on Li. Lies. The New York Times reported that the mines that Li had told the Rossoneri he had controlled, where in fact owned by four other people, and had changed hands for nothing at all.

Like most people with real, or imagined, wealth - Li has an escape route. He can sell the club quickly. If Milan falter in Serie A or the Europa League, they will be sold, and fast. That is in itself a worry, as Milan’s knockdown price will attract a range of investors and with them, vultures. Li’s ownership despite being strange, isn’t exactly the worst case scenario. Look at what happened to Parma, for an example of what happens when you are burned in Italian football.

The most hardcore, the most faithful, the most aggressive and passionate Milan fans have a tendency to show a naive side when demonstrating their live. Attacking and ridiculing those who are pointing out serious flaws in the setup of the club shows an unwillingness to be open to the fact that things might not be right at the top of AC Milan and how they are funded. The best thing we can do is not demand the head of Li, nor Berlusconi - but start to question the intention of this ownership team, who seem to have gambled recklessly with the future of AC Milan. The best thing that anyone who loves Milan can do, is to simply ask one thing.

“Who owns this club?”