New owners want Milan in Champions League by 2018
ABS-CBN Sports on Apr 15, 2017 08:00 AM
From left, David Han Li, Yonghong Li, and Marco Fassone, pose with AC Milan jerseys during a press conference to illustrate takeover of AC Milan soccer club by a Chinese consortium, in Milan, Italy, Friday, April 14, 2017. A new era began at AC Milan on Thursday after the sale of Italy's most successful club to a Chinese-led consortium ended Silvio Berlusconi's 31 years in charge. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
DANIELLA MATAR, Associated Press
MILAN (AP) — AC Milan's new owners are aiming to make the team a force in European soccer once more, and they want to do so with a mix of star signings and talented young players such as teenage goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.
The takeover of Milan by a Chinese-led consortium was finally completed on Thursday, after several delays, ending Silvio Berlusconi's 31-year reign.
During Berlusconi's time in charge, the Rossoneri won trophies at home and abroad, including eight league titles and five Champions League titles. But the seven-time European champion has declined in recent years and is currently sixth in Serie A. It hasn't participated in the Champions League since the 2013-14 season.
"The aim of the next few years is to create a Milan side which is very competitive and very ambitious ... we think we can reach this in a short time," new CEO Marco Fassone said at a press conference on Friday.
"We are Milan, we can't say 'slowly slowly and let's see what happens.' The idea is to get back to the Champions League as soon as possible, the aim is to be in it from the 2018-19 season ... UEFA has given us a small advantage with the decision that from 2018 Italy will have four teams in the Champions League, so from then I am certain Milan will be there."
Currently only the top three in Serie A qualify for Europe's premier club competition.
One of the immediate priorities for Milan's new owners will be tying Donnarumma to a long-term contract. The goalkeeper only turned 18 in February but has already played for Italy and is attracting interest from Europe's top clubs.
"We talked about it also at dinner last night with Berlusconi," Fassone said. "I can say that the new owners have all the consideration for Donnarumma that he deserves.
"On our part there is the desire to sort it out quickly and make Gigio (Donnarumma) a pillar of Milan's future."
Fassone and the new owners are already planning for the next campaign and want coach Vincenzo Montella to have "60-70 percent" of his squad by the beginning of July and the start of pre-season training.
And they are keen to bring in experienced players to help Milan's talented youngsters take the team back to the top.
"We would like to have at the club one or two really big-name players," Fassone said. "Between saying and doing there always has to be the willingness of the clubs and of the players, but we would like to go in that direction."
Fassone also said the new owners plan — "in the medium term" — to address the issue of a modern stadium for Milan, which currently shares San Siro with Inter Milan.
Chinese businessman Yonghong Li, who will be Milan's new president, was present Friday and spoke at length for the first time since his group Rossoneri Sport Luxembourg completed the purchase of the club for 740 million euros (about $800 million).
"Such a glorious club is now beginning a new chapter in its history and the success of this deal was made possible thanks to AC Milan supporters' deep love and expectations," Li said. "Considering all the top players who have played in this team and all the victories of the past years, the fans are hoping to see the club at the top of European football once again." He added that "we want to go beyond supporters' expectations."
The new owners' first match will be Saturday's derby against Inter Milan, which is also owned by a Chinese company.
Fassone, who also worked at Juventus, left Inter in 2015.
"From an emotional and emotive point of view, I couldn't ask for anything better," he said. "My last match as a sporting director was Inter-Milan so it's nice that I'm starting again with another Inter-Milan."