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With legal battles on the horizon, the takeover of AC Milan has fallen into disarray

It’s Berlusconi. It’s Italy and China. It’s Milan. What did you expect?

AC Milan Unveils 'Casa Milan' Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

There are plenty of narratives one could use to shape the failing takeover of AC Milan into whatever story the writer would prefer.

For instance, we could highlight the ‘greedy’ conservative Milan owner - the high profile Silvio Berlusconi and his demand for more cash showing his disdain for the Rossoneri faithful and their want for a new owner.

Or we could focus on the ‘shadowy’ Sino-Europe group. A illuminati-like organisation straight out of an Eighties flick starring Charlie Sheen - where the paranoia over the strength of the East and the fear of communism was at its highest.

We could form this Milan takeover story into anything we wished, thanks to cultural tropes and dangling narrative threads that are yet to be resolved. There are writers who might fear China and look to cast a derogatory glance towards the Sino-Europe group. There are journalists who might have a bone to pick with Berlusconi (who doesn’t?) and thus choose the pending collapse of the AC Milan takeover to point fingers. The truth is, the entire thing has been an exercise in the lack of clarity and competence involved in ‘big finance’. It seems that the more money involved, the more opaque the transaction.

What seemed certain, last August, has now fallen apart and the chances of a successful takeover from Sino-Europe have all but evaporated, like the group themselves.

The fact that makes this so strange is that Sino-Europe actually paid their deposits. I’ve seen this behaviour before, at a tattoo shop mainly. It happens when rich kids get a bit drunk, book a day sitting for a tattoo, leave a deposit of about 1/3rd of the price of the body art before never turning up. The behaviour shown by Sino-Europe is exclusive to the super rich. Who else has the money to burn?

The money left behind in the wake of the rapidly collapsing takeover is in the form of a €200 million deposit paid by the Sino-Europe group to ‘guarantee’ the takeover of Milan. What this is, is the work of Silvio Berlusconi - asking for almost a third of the price of AC Milan (around €600-800 million) in advance of a takeover. Who in their right mind would pay €200 million for something they don’t end up buying?

I think the correct - and possibly unfair answer - is this: a bunch of idiots. Would you want a group to run Milan who A - choose not to reveal themselves, B) found themselves alleged of fraud thanks to a forged banknote and C) decided that €200 million was shortchange for a silly venture capitalist raid of Milan?

No.

I believe fans of the Rossoneri would like an ownership group that can declare exactly who they are, outline a plan for Milan, come up with the funds needed to make a purchase and of course, follow through on such a public declaration of interest in AC Milan. What actually occurred with Sino-Europe was a high-profile takeover that was not only drawn out, but bungled. If the Rossoneri do end up with the group, I would be worried about the financial stability of AC Milan going forward.

The investors backing Sino-Europe disappeared between August 2016 and February 2017 leaving the solitary figure of broke Yonghong Li as the sole embodiment of the collapsed group. Mr Li was unable to provide any notice of anyone backing Sino-Europe.

Much has been made on the ‘Chinese clampdown’ or the strict policies employed by the Chinese Government on foreign investing - including the purchase of football clubs. Now, there are a number of football clubs currently in Chinese ownership with a base of them being clustered in England - namely Aston Villa, Wolverhampton, West Bromwich Albion and Birmingham City. While the city of Birmingham has strong connections to China and all of these teams have a grounded football pedigree - especially Aston Villa, AC Milan they are not. It seems strange that government enforced regulations would scupper the takeover of a club that could be positioned as the ‘largest’ in the world, but not interfere with the takeover of four clubs based in the West Midlands of England?

What this points to is one thing - Sino-Europe never had the money. They certainly wanted the money and I’d guess that the deposit move was to prompt more investors to join the club and hopefully snowball finances. They tried to bring Milan legend Paolo Maldini on board, but he turned down the offer when he found out that there was no ‘head honcho’ to meet with. That may very well be the biggest red flag of them all.

It is Silvio Berlusconi who has come out swinging and in defence of Sino-Europe - noting that the investors were ‘serious’. One must have to be either stupid or serious to pay two deposits on something they do not intend to buy. Of course, it also shows a clear interest and commitment in purchasing the club, but despite being ‘gazumped’ by the Chinese government - when push come to shove, Sino-Europe were nowhere to be found.

Maybe Sino-Europe have been dealt a bad hand, but being in pole position to purchase - nothing clear has emerged from their camp. What’s more, if Fininvest do scrap the deal - what happens to Milan if Sino-Europe take Berlusconi to court to reclaim their deposit?

We are now seven months in to the takeover of AC Milan and not a single thing has emerged from the cloud surrounding the club. It seems that the more money involved, the less clarity there is and the sale of Milan seems to have fallen apart at the seams.