In a perfect world perhaps, Silvio Berlusconi and Massimo Moratti would be presiding over the Milan Derby. Marco Van Basten said the Chinese influence was “hard to swallow.” Whilst Chinese may not be Marco’s favourite dish, how else would he have it? Both clubs were in decline and this new injection of Eastern wealth may be able to catapult them back on to the European stage, so is it really that unpalatable for Milan to have foreign investors?
Back when Berlusconi arrived, the sound of ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ blaring out from his descending helicopter, many at the time would have found this ‘hard to swallow’. His big spending on his trio of Dutch superstars (Van Basten being one) would have looked like new money saturating Serie A with expensive foreign talent. Times change and what is new today will soon become the nostalgia of tomorrow.
Inter’s Suning Group and Milan’s Rossoneri Sport Investment Lux group have come in and approached their projects in aggressive yet different ways. This in turn has allowed both Milan and Inter to look credible again. After all, the Rossoneri’s last title came in 2011 the Nerazzurri have been on a downward spiral since the 2010 Treble.
Roberto Baggio gets it, as the Divine Ponytail spent time at both clubs in his career and noted the Chinese have the power to take the city of Milan back to the top of world football. Baggio is correct in that that these projects will need time. Inter have developed an extremely competitive squad, as have Milan, and this has made a huge impact on the mood in the city.
Rewind to 2015, the 0-0 draw in the Derby Della Madonnina in April. This saw one of the most spectacular choreographies in recent times, although it was more a statement of ‘we are still here’ rather than a demonstration of strength. The mood in the city was bleak, as both teams seemed destined to a future of getting nowhere near Juventus, and former European glories were threatened by the simple fact that they would perhaps miss out on the competition altogether. Players they invested in would often be seen leaving for mid-table Premier League teams, this was David Platt in reverse. The mood that night was sombre, but that’s not the case anymore.
Now Milano is excited, the football is again something they can be proud of. The teams boast stars like Mauro Icardi, Ivan Perisic, Joao Mario, Andre Silva, Gigio Donnarumma, Leonardo Bonucci and more. There is hope that perhaps not this season, but soon, they will be competing for the Scudetto and then maybe Europe.
Football is fun again, they are no longer embarrassed and ready to put their money on. This has been seen in the attendances in Serie A again this term: 60,000 saw Milan play in a Europa League qualifier, whilst Inter impressively get at least 50,000. Admittedly Serie A attendances as a whole are up, but everyone acknowledges Italian football needs a strong Juventus and two Milan clubs to be truly back.
Italian football’s failure has often been the resistance to change, admittedly this has also been part of its appeal, but in the right measures it is certainly palatable. Far Eastern owners may not feel the norm in Milan, but they will soon and what they can bring is taking the clubs closer to their past heights. Even the midday kick-off time for the last Derby Della Madonnina had many nostalgically remembering the afternoon games in the early 1990s. This was for the Chinese audience, but still, it had a feeling of grandeur and the match felt enhanced by the atmosphere.
Van Basten may have once said that “two such glorious clubs should remain Italian” and his stance is echoed elsewhere, but could this view be misguided? Is perhaps embracing this change turning them back into something other than a shadow of their former selves? The Derby Della Madonnina may have deep Eastern pockets, but the style and the grandeur is still all most certainly Milanese.