Speaking during the DLA Piper Sport Forum, CEO Giorgio Furlani discussed a number of different topics related to the past, present and future of AC Milan.
Since taking Ivan Gazidis’ role as the business head and public face of Milan – something he of course shares with Gerry Cardinale – Furlani has often spoken in the media about wha the strategy is for the club moving forward.
He has also been very vocal about the point that the project started under Elliott Management – which is when he arrived at the club – a time when the Rossoneri were on the verge of bankruptcy after Yonghong Li’s disastrous ownership.
“There was, when I was with Elliott , a control loan and then Elliott became the owner by chance, by mistake, by shareholder bankruptcy. The Milan club was not as sustainable as it is today and yes, it was close to bankruptcy,” he told the Forum.
To be honest, although Milan’s situation under Yonghgong Li was critical, there are very few elite clubs belonging to one of the top five leagues in Europe that have gone bankrupt due to financial management. However, it must not and cannot be denied that Elliott’s reconstruction work was fundamental and avoided any type of risk.
Furlani would add: “Like Elliott we had to make a great turn around, which was based on four fundamental pillars: first sporting success, because there is no project in football and in Milan that does not have sporting success as its basis.
“Secondly, the adjustment of costs, especially those relating to players who were too high for their performances; thirdly, investments in the commercial area to have commercial revenues to reinvest and fourthly – alas – the new stadium: we tried to do the San Siro project, now we have thrown ourselves into San Donato.”
With these words Furlani retraced the virtuous path followed by Elliott before and continued with RedBird cAPITAL today. Under the management of the American fund, Milan has reduced most of its costs by eliminating its debt without neglecting sporting results, as underlined by the Scudetto and the Champions League semi-final achieved in the last two seasons.
The construction of the new playing facility, no longer shared with Inter, will obviously represent an expensive but sustainable expense which will drastically increase the club’s revenues in the space of a few years.
An increase in investments
There has often been questions from supporters on what exactly the plan of Milan’s ownership is with regards to improving the playing squad year on year, and Furlani’s response was unequivocal.
“Once we generate resources, we reinvest them for the growth of the squad with the investment in the players,” he said.
These words were backed up by actions in the summer, when after the sale of Sandro Tonali for €70m, 10 new players arrived at Milan who have significantly extended the squad depth with over €110m spent.
The transfer fees paid for any one player did not exceed €20m (excluding bonuses), a figure that Milan will have to at least double for the purchase of a striker between January and the summer.
The increase in revenues with constant participation in the Champions League and the growth of the brand on a global level are and will be the means available to Milan to also increase the scope of investments to be made on the football market.
A fundamental tool
Some sources reported last month that the decision has been made to bring the Growth Decree to an end, and it will not just apply from the next transfer window but also to signings made from 1 July 2023 onwards.
However, Calcio e Finanza then stated that the scrapping of the tax relief scheme should not concern professional athletes and thus clubs will continue to be able to enjoy its benefits, as well as things like the arts sector.
Since then there has been a bit of confusion about what the future holds for the scheme, but Furlani made it clear that removing it would place Serie A clubs at a competitive disadvantage.
“Removing the growth decree would be the destruction of Italian football. Just look at the results of Italian clubs in the latest European competitions,” he told the forum.
“On an economic level we are below other markets, in a difficult context, and it is difficult to make a stable project. Therefore the only lever that makes us competitive, on a relative level, with the top European championships is the Growth Decree.”
Looking at the summer window, Milan purchased six players from abroad (Christian Pulisic, Tijjani Reijnders, Yunus Musah, Noah Okafor, Marco Pellegrino and Samuel Chukwueze) and if the Growth Decree were not available the 50% tax breaks would not apply.
As per the example given by Calcio e Finanza, a salary of €5m net per season would therefore cost the club €7.9m and not €6.5m with the decree. This is a disparity which may not seem huge, however it adds up over the course of a contract (€7m over a five-year deal in that example) and over multiple signings.
The need for a collective
As Gerry Cardinale has said before, it is imperative that Serie A as a global export product begins to trim the gap to other rival leagues such as the Premier League and LaLiga with regards to TV rights.
Furlani echoed that sentiment, insisting that collective effort with all the other sides in the division is what can make a big difference, and he even suggested an idea.
“If we are rivals on the pitch, we must work together with the other 19 clubs and grow the football product off it. Two major systemic challenges: the fight against piracy which is a drama for Italian football and the stadiums. We are committing to our stadium project, but I’m happy that other teams also are undertaking other projects.
“Creating a Serie A channel with higher revenues is an innovative, interesting idea, but it’s not without risks. There isn’t any evidence that I know of around Europe that proves it’s the right path, but in my opinion, not enough analysis has been done to understand it either. It’s clearly an interesting concept. As Serie A we decided that we were not ready and therefore to go with the traditional form.”
We close this analysis with a topic only partially touched on by Furlani, that concerning the transfer market. The strategy adopted by Milan when buying and selling players is clear: purchases calibrated in an age range between 20 and 26 (with a few exceptions) and with a salary in line with club policy.
It is a rigid choice that does not exclude free transfers but makes them very complicated (as happened for example with Marcus Thuram who went to Inter). Bosman moves do not involve a transfer fee but this as a result means there are much higher salary demands compared to a ‘classic’ operation and inflated commissions.
These are two things (the salary and commissions) that often weight much heavier on a budget level compared to a transfer fee which is amortised and a lower salary.