The Immortals of Sacchi, the Invincible from Capello, Wonderful Ancelotti… Many nicknames were given to the Rossoneri during Berlusconi’s presidency. But if AC Milan is what it is today, and this for many generations of tifosi, it owes much to their Pygmalion. This article will list the huge investments made during the 31 years he spent as president of the seven-time Champions League winner before selling him to Chinese Ly Yonghong for € 740m in 2017.
Behind a man… A Holding, Fininvest
Berlusconi began his entrepreneurial career by making his fortune in real estate. In 1975, he created Fininvest, which will grow with buybacks. In turn, publishing activities (Mandadori), theater (Manzoni), distribution channels, banking (Mediolanum) will be added … but the best intuition will have been made within the television empire. Starting with a small private channel which broadcasts in the residential areas of Milano 2, relaunching channels (Rete 4, Canale 5, Italia 1 then Mediaset), and producing television programs.
Tifoso from the start of AC Milan, passionate about football, he has the instinct to bring together this society of image and entertainment, which he is convinced that Italians are fond of, with calcio, which is the popular sport. For the record, the Knight had offered to buy Inter in 1982 from President Fraizzoli, who advised him to follow his heart rather than reason.
An Italian Success
It took him well. In 1986, AC Milan was more talked about in the courts than in the field. A legal representative is even appointed to liquidate the club but the third fortune of the country at the time, decides to take over the institution in danger. Rete Italia (controlled by Fininvest) pays 6 billion lire (3.25 M €) to honor a loan from then-president Nardi, and 25 billion lire (12 M €) to increase the club’s capital in the aim to strengthen the team.
Over the 30 years of his presidency, Fininvest will have paid a total of 900 M € while the management of AC Milan will have lost, 860 M € net. Or an average annual loss of € 28 million over the period.
In the 1980s, 46.61 M €, in the 1990s, 171 M €, in the 2000s, 254.82 €, the growing trend in investments is inversely proportional to the sports results. The last trophy won by the Rossoneri dates back to 2011, yet investments during this decade were insane, and will rise to € 432.57 million injected directly into the club’s coffers.
We can not say that the intuition of the Italian magnate will not have had sports results. He can boast of having gleaned under his presidency: 13 international trophies, 16 nationals, 7 golden balls. The tandem he formed with Galliani will have attracted the greatest players to Lombardy. The most expensive acquisition was that of Rui Costa in 2001, extirpated from Fiorentina for € 42 million. The same year, he will spend € 37 million to secure the services of Inzaghi, which is in second position. Nesta will complete the podium (31 M €) the following year, leaving, despite himself, a drifting Lazio.
Disconnected from modern football
The 2010s will be cruel for Berlusconi. The price inflation in modern football, the obligation to develop a winning merchandising, the Italian football crisis, empty stadiums … will lead the Cavaliere to throw in the towel. This is not for lack of trying to remain competitive, as demonstrated by the resources invested by the Italian billionaire to keep his Milan in contact with the greatest.
The management of a club is not what it used to be. Average players, Bacca for € 30m and Romagnoli for € 25m, who complete the quintet of the biggest transfers under the Berlusconi era, are barely compensated by the sales of Ibrahimovic and other Silva. The Cavaliere Business Plan is no longer tenable, the sums injected – 60 M € in 2014 and 2015, 40 in 2016, will be the final blow to one of the most fabulous stories in world football. Berlusconi is no longer the right man, but he will personify the Diavolo for many years to come.
To read also in the file “AC Milan, the Berlusconi years”:
1. 1986, the beginning (1/4)
2. Sacchi and the Reformation (2/4)
3. When business rhymes with Calcio (3/4)
4. A political showcase (4/4)