GQ: SUVs, bodyguards and Beckham – journalist recalls attending PSG game with Cardinale

By Oliver Fisher -

A journalist has told the story of what it was like to accompany AC Milan’s owner Gerry Cardinale to a Champions League fixture against Paris Saint-Germain.

The website GQ published a long read on what it is like to own one of Europe’s top football clubs, and in the article were quotes from Cardinale about just how stressful he has found it being Milan’s owner.

It was a poor start for the Rossoneri as Milan Skriniar headed the away team in front inside 10 minutes, but goals from Rafael Leao and Olivier Giroud meant that Milan got the points they deserved for a really impressive display.

The victory against PSG kept Milan’s hopes of earning a knockout berth alive, but they then lost 3-1 at home to Dortmund which rendered the 2-1 victory away at Newcastle in the final group game as insufficient, though it did earn a Europa League spot.

The piece from Tom Lamont outlines the experience he had in December when he flew to Italy and accompanied Cardinale to the victory against the Ligue 1 champions.

“We drove to the San Siro from his hotel in an SUV. Whenever the car encountered traffic, police, or any sort of obstruction, Cardinale’s bodyguard buzzed down the window and shouted that he had ‘il proprietario del Milan’ in the back seat.

“Seas parted. In the stadium’s underground car park, Cardinale shook the first of about 100 offered hands. ‘Stay close. This will be chaotic,’ he said. Three hours of glittery, veneered, ear-shredding chaos did indeed follow. Selfies in the bar. Bear hugs at pitchside.

“At one point a famous Oasis song boomed around the stadium. It felt in keeping with the night’s surreal intensity that Oasis’s lead guitarist, Noel Gallagher, should have been invited along to watch with us.

“Down a crammed gangway, Cardinale collided with David Beckham, who’d come to see the game too. Another retired galáctico, Thierry Henry, was also there. Wrapped in winter coats, serene and smiling, the two ex-superstars wore their retirement well, beautifully even.

“Beckham, in particular, brought with him the aura of an intense fame that had just recently been renewed by a namesake docuseries on Netflix. Beckham embraced Cardinale. Henry did too.

“As dressing room met trading room, onlookers raised smartphones to capture the interesting moment. We all found our seats, seconds before kickoff.

“PSG scored early. Milan equalised almost right away. Behind one of the goals, die-hards lit flares. They tortured their former goalkeeper, Donnarumma, pelting him with objects and later, in a breathtaking choreographed protest, hurling thousands of fake banknotes to shower him in contempt.

“When Milan scored to win the game, Cardinale was almost dragged off his feet in the tumult. A picture of him, roaring, would appear in the following day’s Gazzetta.

“He was out of his seat as soon as the whistle blew, down to the car park so quickly that his bodyguard had to come back up in the lift to fetch me. He gunned the SUV back to the hotel: il proprietario, il talismano!

“In the back seat, cooling off, Cardinale made some soft-voiced business calls to New York. He spoke to his daughter, a high school student, who hadn’t made one of her school varsity teams this year.

“Cardinale had been sending her videos of interviews with successful athletes, clipped life lessons about not giving up too easily. His own dad used to do something similar, Cardinale had told me earlier, ‘cutting out articles from the sports pages and leaving them next to [the] cereal’.

“He did it, Cardinale explained, because “sport captures in a two- to four-hour time span the whole human spirit.”


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