Sports / Soccer

AC Milan sale to Chinese buyers will happen by 'next week'

By Angus McNeice in London ( Updated: 2016-07-13 22:53

AC Milan sale to Chinese buyers will happen by 'next week'

The AC Milan logo is pictured on a pennant in a soccer store in downtown Milan, Italy April 29, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]

The protracted purchase of AC Milan by a Chinese consortium was postponed yet again on Monday, though although a person familiar with the negotiations says the hold-up is due to "little deals" and the emblematic Italian club should change hands by next week.

The deal — which will see 80 percent of the club signed over to an as yet unnamed collective of Chinese backers — was supposed to be finalised on June 20. The deadline was shifted to June 30 as Silvio Berlusconi — whose Fininvest group owns AC Milan — recovered from heart surgery performed June 14, though that date flew by again with nothing finalised. On July 5, Berlusconi told Italian media he had accepted terms, before word came out on Monday that no signing has yet taken place.

"There are only some little details of the contract the parts have to finalise," the person, who requested anonymity, told China Daily on Wednesday. "If it will not be done in this week, it surely will happen in the next week. There are no problems, only some last technical details to be solved."

The remaining 20 percent of the club will be acquired over the next two years while the majority stake has risen from the 70 percent discussed in June. A source told China Daily in early July the deal values the club at between 700 million and 750 million euros, including 200 million euros of debt.

Past delays in the deal reportedly included the disclosure of all investors involved in the consortium as well as assurances that the new owners will invest heavily in player transfers over the coming seasons. Berlusconi has since indicated he is satisfied on both counts, and the former Italian Prime Minister is set to stay on at the club as an honorary president and informal adviser.

"Milan has now embarked on this path towards China," Berlusconi said July 5, according to the Financial Times. "I accepted what was offered to me, that does not even take into account the value of the brand. But I demanded the commitment of the new owners, who are a group of leading Chinese companies, some also state-owned, to pay at least 400 million euros over the next two years."

Should the deal go through, AC Milan will join a long list of European football clubs to receive investment from China in recent years that include among others: Inter Milan, Atletico Madrid, Espanyol, Manchester City, Aston Villa, Sochaux FC and Slavia Prague.

The investment plays into Chinese President Xi Jinping's wish to turn China into a football powerhouse over the next few decades. In April, the Chinese Football Association released a 50-point long-term development plan (2016-2050) dedicated to the game, that includes significant development in grassroots programs including academies and stadia across China.

Wang Mingjie also contributed to this article.

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