Devil’s Advocate: Untimely takeover threatens to sap momentum from Milan’s Scudetto win

By Oliver Fisher -

The achievements of the 2021-22 season and capturing the Scudetto for the first time in 11 years has launched a fresh wave of enthusiasm around AC Milan.

While the celebrations of the 19th league title are continuing, there is also rightly a fair amount of attention now being paid to the 2022-23 campaign and what promises to potentially be an even more important season in the tapestry of the Rossoneri’s resurgence.

Essentially, the hope is that winning the Scudetto is a not merely an end goal but rather a starting point, one that brings fresh impetus to the plans of the ownership and further concretely proves that the right people are in the right positions of power to take the club back among Europe’s elite.

One of Milan’s big advantages heading into their title-winning campaign was continuity; being able to count upon the same management, the same directors and the same core of players to keep building towards winning a major trophy. Now that title has arrived, the question quickly became what next?

The answer so far does not seem to be a very reassuring one, because a change in ownership from Elliott Management to RedBird Capital has happened at perhaps the most inopportune moment and is threatening to complicate a lot of different matters.

Paolo Maldini and Ricky Massara are currently less than two weeks from the expiry of their contract and while they carry out negotiations over various renewals and the potential acquisition of new players, they still have not put pen to paper to secure their own future.

Not only that, but the latest reports are suggesting that there has been a slowdown in negotiations over the extension of the directors because they have discovered they have a lower transfer budget than they were expecting, which will be around €45-50m rather than the €70-80m Elliott Management have been willing to invest in various windows.

While Maldini and Massara have been setting up operations and securing agreements with players like Sven Botman and Renato Sanches over personal terms, they are now discovering that they might not be able to even afford both players, and that is without moving on to the attacking department where there is undoubtedly some strengthening needed.

The optimism and excitement of the fan base is waning each day with reports that back-up targets who are cheaper are now being evaluated. It serves to prove a lesson that momentum is much easier to destroy than it is to build, which is why some answers are needed in public.

One of Gerry Cardinale’s first comments after taking control of Milan was that he hates losing, and he revealed a desire to take the Rossoneri back to their previous heights, where the club belongs among Europe’s elite.

If his plan to achieve that is to heavily rely on youth, to spend less than Elliott were making available and to self-finance future transfer expenditure through sales, then it seems very hard to see anything like that materialising

Of course with the way that Financial Fair Play works (even though the system is changing) there is still an importance placed upon selling players who do not want to commit long-term or are outside the plans – something Milan have drawn criticism for given the players that have walked away for free – but young and talented targets cost money and competitors with more wealth will easily outbid any ‘moneyball’ approaches.

The transfer window is long and we have seen Maldini and Massara do some savvy business almost out of nowhere, however there is a looming sense of confusion and frustration clouding the skies of the Milan world at the moment.

There are certain issues that need clarifying publicly and not through unhelpful interviews like the one Paolo Scaroni did in which he admitted Rafael Leao could be replaceable based on how Pierre Kalulu stepped up when Simon Kjaer was injured.

The market currently seems to be blocked. Inter and Juventus seem to be bolstering at the moment rather than standing still and watching despite their more precarious financial situations. While the Nerazzurri try to close deals for Romelu Lukaku, Paulo Dybala, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and others, their city rivals continue to haggle over the fees for Florenzi and Messias.

In spite of everything mentioned above, panic should be avoided at present because there is over two months until the mercato closes and the renewals of Maldini and Massara could get the wheels in motion, and any reports about budget may yet be wide of the mark.

However, the takeover situation seems to have complicated a lot of different things rather than adding fuel to what was destined to be a journey towards bridging the gap with the truly elite clubs in Europe. Answers are needed, and through actions not words.

Tags AC Milan


    1. Milan’s net transfer with Maldini as technical director:

      2019-2020: -63m
      2020-2021: +13m
      2021-2022: -73m

      That is 123m net spent over 3 seasons, which average at 41m per season.

      Milan didn’t even has transfer budget at 2020-2021.

    2. Lets hope that 50m do not already include the money from selling Hauge (12m). Maldini can still sell Castillejo, Duarte, and Caldara, lets hope for decent prize.

      1. Even if they sell those players it won’t be enought to sing Botman,sanchez, right wing and attacking midfielder. Diaz and Salemakers have shown that they aren’t the good enough

    3. Elliott funded the €70m outlay to sign Piatek and Paqueta in January 2019, so it has happened in more than one window.

      1. True, they spent more than I expected but their goal was to increase value as quick as possible and sell for a high price. Redbird isn’t here to resell but to make money from their investment and they need to make 1B to return the investment. I expect prices of everything at the club to go up within’ a maximum of 5 years.

      2. That was during Leonardo era, in fact, the net spent during 2018-2019 is 120m. The strategy changed after Leonardo was replaced with Maldini.

  1. I knew from the onset that this Shitty cardinale guy or whatever his name is, was bad news…. Where’s the champions league ambition??? investcorp would have certainly be anxious to put milan back on the world stage and make a statement, we have the best guys in control like Maldini and Massara, why should we be investing 50 million in hopes to achieve something in the champions league or retain serie A, while rival clubs like inter and juventus are making big investments…..

  2. Why can’t fans vote who we want as owner!
    You don’t need to have any football or business to know that American owners are greedy af have a look at teams that are owned by them none of those teams are winning trophies besides Milan this year with all thank to the players, pioli and Maldini, Massara Gazidis.
    Eliot was so selfish knowing that salemakers and diaz were underperforming like 2 amateurs found of the street then we lost our key defender and they made an inexperienced right back play of position every owner would have brought reinforcements in January transfer market while seeing that the team was hard challenging for the title but they didn’t do a thing. They can lie to us about chosing the “right” buyer to sell the team but they did that because they got offered fast money and also more that the Bahraini company they don’t care about investing in the team to push Milan where they belong they really don’t this dude isn’t even rich himself he loans money from investors it’s not even his money I’m afraid that we will have a terrible season next year and he will decide to sell good players and go with the youth academy this is not Bundesliga or Dutch league look at your rivals Inter is about to pay more wages with the upcoming player than Milan is about to buy

    1. “You don’t need to have any football or business to know that American owners are greedy af have a look at teams that are owned by them none of those teams are winning trophies.”

      You need to do more research before posting this claim.

    2. Look at Real Madrid, that is the only club anyone ever should look at. Ran perfectly, they didn’t even feel the disaster of spending over 100M on Hazard that doesn’t play. It is a non profit as well, so there are no owners but fans. Every fan can buy a share. This is what I was trying to suggest through various fan organizations when Berlusconi was selling but idiots wouldn’t put 10€ of their own money to buy at least a part of the shares of the club and have a say in picking the management.

      1. Elliott would loan at least half of the money, they give money to anybody if there is something they can take if your loan defaults.

      2. We need as a fan base someone with a Voice who can explain and get into people in both languages as in Italian and English. We all saw Jamie Caragher and Neville work with fans against Super leauge and Garry Neville is still going against Man utd current owners I don’t know anyone who talks about issues that Milan faces in English and I might be wrong but this is really bad because this team is know world wide

      3. Real Madrid have huge revenue from commercial side, just like Manchester United. This is something that Berlusconi failed to build. Milan is still far behind in term of revenues.

        Investcorp won’t be better. Yes they are from middle-east, but they are not state sponsored like those who owned City, PSG, or Newcastle. They are just another investment fund.

        The only thing Red Bird can bring is expertise in stadium building, don’t expect them to be sugar daddy.

        1. Investcorp has 7-8 times more wealth. Buying Milan would be under 5% of their total value, it is 25% of Redbird. You can’t compare the money they have, in any dream. And what experience would they have? They have none, the only club they manage is Toulouse, and not for a long time. They don’t have anything to do with any construction company or any other major sport except for the NFL official hospitality. So, nothing to do with NFL or any clubs really. That is like owning a hotel where players sleep and saying you run the club. They invested in a successfull owner of Liverpool, last year, again 0% of their input in anything that Liverpool did.

          I told you all, Red Bird has an expertise in making money for their investors. That is why they exist and that is their goal. To make money from Milan. Nothing else.

          1. Everything you said, I also said few times. But, people keep telling me: they own Toulouse, Red Sox, Liverpool… They own nothing. I bet, this guy Cardinale did not watch 5 football games in his life! If he knows what is ofside, I give him €100.

          2. More wealth is not necessarily more cash. They can’t even raise cash to buy Milan. How would you expect them to raise cash for transfer market.

        2. Investcorp isn’t state sponsored but they were sponsored by sugar daddies like roman ibrahimovic and I said it before it’s a firm where billionaires prefer their investment but keep a low profile…..same was with Milan takeover using incestcorp as a vehicle to get ownership….with elliot is investors money and with investcorp it was simply a billionaires who was purchasing through an investing vehicle….now ask me why can’t they simply investb by their name well too much politics and tons of scrutiny…..Newcastle is one such example…

          1. You guys seems under the impression that Investcorp will be better than Redbird. Don’t let that middle east label turns your eyes green.

            Investcorp can’t even meet Elliot’s valuation of Milan around 1.8B. They only offer 1.2B for 96% share. Worse, they can only raise 600M from what you called middle eastern sugar daddies, the remaining 600 is bank loan which will become Milan’s debt.

            Do you expect such company to be able to raise transfer funds and commercial sponsors from middle east? They can’t even raise fund from middle eastern sugar daddies for the takeover. If they give us transfer funds, it will be another bank loans which put Milan at risk of bankruptcy.

            Redbird on the other hand do not use any bank loan, they had been able to raise 800m up till now. If they manage to raise another 100m, their majority is guaranteed even if they failed to pay the remaining vendor loan to Elliot. This is because the vendor loan is structured so that the remaining loan can be converted to shares. Elliot will receive back some of Milan’s shares proportional to the unpaid loans. This way it won’t become Milan’s debt.

    3. “You don’t need to have any football or business to know that American owners are greedy af”

      Pure racism once again. 🙂

      1. Americans aren’t a race, but a nation. You can’t be racist towards a nation of a bunch of races and ethnic groups. 😀

  3. If the budget is really 45-50 million euro,then Cardinale and Redbird have no clue where they are.
    One thing is for sure….They started on a wrong turn

  4. Lol Marseille, Arsenal and man utd are also owned by Americans when was the last time they won a league title? Those are huge clubs Milan is the only top 5 club owned by Americans that did win the league title Liverpool second in the league Arsneal fifth Marseille second Manchester United god knows

  5. Well after takeover I already said wait till transfer market comes you will see the result….the difference between investcorp and redbird is that one was taking milan as an asset to improve their their image and bring sports in middle east…..the return would have been massive since world cup being played in middle east and once again I repeat it was not a fund it was a takeover by a someone who often use their money through investment vehicle…and redbird who are only in for profits..newer version of elliot….phew well i guess ppl still screaming at investcorp taking 400 m loan on milan and providing them with 200 m plus for transfers…..

    1. I don’t think 6 months is enough to make preparation to get commercial gain in middle east using World Cup, especially as Italy do not even qualify. On the other hand, 2026 World Cup is in USA.

      1. Milan have a huge fan base in middle east especially in uae then Bahrain and then saudia….Commercial exposure for Milan as a brand and club to profit from would be immensed….even Milan represents Italy but the its name is immensed…I still regret it why wasn’t it sold to that firm…Well that’s past let’s hope wish our future holds good

        1. Milan have huge fanbase worldwide, not just middle east, the question is how to harvest them. Investcorp and Elliot do not have big experience in sports commercial. Milan need to evolve to be a club that can self-finance 200m transfer budget per season just based on commercial revenues, not depending on sugar daddy.

    1. That wasn’t the remark that was made. It was that Elliott have during their tenure had more than one window with €70m spending, which is true.

      1. Just 2 windows… and there was even a season without any transfer budget. The claim that Elliot give 70-80m in various windows is true but misleading at what they actually give across the years. Do we consider summer and winter windows separate? If yes that means Elliot only give 70-80m budget in 2 out of 8 windows with another 2 windows have 0 budget.

  6. When Investcorp came I thought we are getting 2 players on AMC like Dybala to start and Luka Sučić for the future. And now I am waiting to see which player will be sold so we can buy. Love the new owners, big thanks to Elliott for thinking about the fans by taking more money for themselves. Amazing people and vulture fund.

    1. I don’t think Milan need to sell players. Botman and Sanches are luxury, not essentials. We already have good starters and even backup for those positions. What we need is an attacking midfielder, we can still get CDK with that budget. Fortunately, Origi and CDK can also play as right winger.

      1. He have 0 good starters for 2 positions, AMC and RW. We don’t have a backup LB at all, having Theo play without real backup for 2 seasons is a crime towards him, I would be insulted. 3 players that HAVE to be brought in if we will play in CL. Or we expect to beat City with Messias there? Yes, Florenzi can also play there but who really wants that? I mean cmon, be realistic. Inter will have Lukaku back and will buy more, and we barely went past them after their mistakes in the last few rounds. Juventus as well, they already have good defense and Chiesa-Vlahović, top top players and still really young, they can build on that.

        1. Milan can get Origi, CDK, and Cambiasso with 50m budget + sales from Hauge, Duarte, Caldara, Castillejo, and Balo-Taore (I read report that Milan reject offer for Balo-Toure because the want to keep him, is that true?). In fact, there will be leftovers. Hauge is 12m, if the others are 13m, Milan can have 75m. Suppose CDK is 35m and Cambiasso is 5m, as Origi is free, Milan can still have 35m to spend, it can be for Botman or for Sanches/Enzo+RW.

          Cambiasso is left back, CDK is attacking midfielder but can also play at the right, Origi can also play as right winger.

  7. Quote from former Maldini interview (27.05.2022):
    “The 21 players that under my direct management we have signed outright have resulted in a net expenditure of 75 million between signings and sales. When I decided to stay after Leonardo’s farewell, I had a higher budget in mind.”

    Leonardo left in 05.2019. So Elliott spent transfers only 75m in the last 3 years.

      1. Yes but they don’t spend anything in 2020 (affected by covid). Elliot always created transfer budget according to operating margin (2018-2019 was an exception as the squad left by Li Yonghong was disastrous).

        The 50m transfer budget is based on Elliot’s calculation of the operating margin. Why is it lower than last season? Because Cardinale agree to raise the wage bill limit by 20% (around 20-25m). There is always a trade off between transfer budget and wage bill.

        1. The only way to increase the transfer budget is if Cardinale can bring commercial deals from USA but I guess it will take months, not in time for summer window.

          Lets just see what Maldini will do, if he renew, that means he still believe the transfer budget can increase season by season.

      2. It is also unfair to talk about transfer budget withput considering the salary cap.

        In 3 years Maldini work as Technical Director, Elliot allow total of 123m transfer budget. But does that really came from Elliot? Not exactly, it come from lowering the salary. So the money that could be used to pay the salary is used for transfer budget instead. Elliot had reduces it from 140m to 100m in the last 3 years, a 40m reduction.

        It means of those 123m, 40m comes from reducing salary cap. So it was 83m over 3 years which is closer to 28m per season. Even if we omit the covid year, it will only be 42m per season.

        On the other hand, Redbird give 50m transfer budget + 20m salary cap increase, which means 70m for this season. More than double the average of last 3 seasons.

    1. I look at the data in transfermarkt, the 3 years when Maldini is technical director, the net transfer spent (buy-sell) is 123m, not just 75m. 75 m is last year alone.

  8. The problem is not the transfer budget, or lack of same, but lack of direction and directors after 1/7.

    MMM have done miracles, but building a strategy on miracles is naive.

    Loosing Maldini and Massara will inevitable lead to the team loosing faith in the club, players want to leave and the last few years of progress lost.

    For me to see there is a huge risk for Red Bird Capital that they will loose their investment, even before they got the ownership in September.

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