“The times they are a-changin,” once sang Bob Dylan. Lyrics that are perhaps a fitting way to describe recent developments in Serie A. Two-and-a-half years ago Roma became the first Italian club to be bought out by foreign investors. On Tuesday this week, Inter became Italy’s second club to be brought under the control of foreign ownership.
As Massimo Moratti walked out of his offices on Tuesday, he announced: “Everything's been signed.” After 18 years as Inter President, he had just agreed a deal to sell his club. Asked whether he was a bit sad, he responded: “You're not necessarily happy, rather you are relieved to think you've left it in good hands.”
It marks the end of an era in Inter and Italian football’s history. Moratti took over as President in 1995 and under his watch the club went on to win five Scudetti, four Coppa Italias, four Italian Super Cups, the UEFA Cup, the Champions League and the World Club Cup. It was arguably the most successful period in the club’s history since Moratti’s father, Angelo, presided between 1955 and 1968.
As the curtain comes down on the second Moratti reign, one is left to ponder what the future holds for one of Italy’s most storied clubs.
Moratti seems to have every bit of faith in the new management team, headed by Indonesian media and entertainment mogul Erick Thohir. “I am sure they will contribute to a continued string of successes. The new partners' enthusiasm and pragmatism are certainly a guarantee for the future,” he said.
Moratti’s use of the word ‘partners’ is significant, for though he has passed on the baton, “I am not abandoning Inter” he insists. And he is not. Moratti still retains a 30 per cent share in the side so he will certainly be “sticking around”. Only now decisions will not be his own to make. But, considering what the new investors will bring to the table, it is certainly the way forward.
Thohir will first clean up the Inter’s debts – amounting to roughly €200m. Then, the objective will be to exploit the club’s worldwide appeal – particularly in the Asian region where Thohir will continue to reside – by restructuring its commercial and financial arrangements. Plans for a new stadium are expected to be part of this vision, though more will become clear after the first new board meeting on October 28.
In this way, the Indonesian takeover very much reflects that of the American conglomerate at Roma, rather than that seen at clubs like Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain. So any hopes Inter fans had that Thohir’s arrival would trigger a mega spending spree on star players perhaps should be put on hold, for now at least. Moratti, though, has hinted it may not be completely out of the question either. “I don’t think the Nerazzurri fans can really expect something similar to the purchase of Gareth Bale, but then when sentiments and competition with rivals come into it, you just never know.”
Though the spending dried up in recent times, for the best part Moratti was rather spendthrift with his money. Over the years he is estimated to have spent one billion euros on Inter, an astonishing amount of euros. However, looking at where the club is today, it is hard to see where it has all gone. Revenues have hardly been increasing while the club has not won any ‘major’ trophy since the halcyon days of Jose Mourinho’s treble-winning champions three years ago. And this is why Thohir, with his financially savvy and prudent ways, could just be the tonic Inter need to get back on track.
And what is good for Inter in this case, is good for Italian football. Times are certainly changing on the peninsula, but, after years of stagnation, it seems it’s for the better.
Read more from Frank Tigani at The Divine Ponytail