There was a period when both Milan clubs, AC Milan and Inter Milan, commanded Italy and the European landscape. With 37 Serie A crowns and 10 UEFA Champions League titles between the two San Siro sides, their illustrious legacy speaks for itself.
Legends such as Andriy Shevchenko, Paolo Maldini, Wesley Sneijder, Javier Zanetti, and a myriad of other superstars, both clubs have produced some of the game’s greatest players. But those days of supremacy are long gone, as both clubs have looked like shadows of their former selves since 2010.
Of course, the previous season was an exception, with Inter Milan winning the Scudetto for the first time in a decade and AC Milan finishing second, their best finish since the 2011/12 campaign. However, the negative momentum shift in their dominance was both sudden and quite catastrophic for their decorated legacy.
INTER MILAN’S MANAGEMENT WOES
Internazionale was primarily controlled by the Pirelli Group, which was descended from the Moratti family. Angelo Moratti was perhaps the most successful Inter owner and president in history, having won back-to-back Champions Cups in 1964 and 1965 with a squad known as La Grande Inter (The Great Inter), spearheaded by iconic manager Helenio Herrera and featuring some of Inter’s most legendary athletes such as Luis Suarez and Sandro Mazzola.
After several years, Angelo’s son, Massimo, took over the baton from his father, with the ambition of one day fulfilling what his father did: making Internacional a legendary club. Angelo and Massimo were both huge supporters of the club well before they became the presidents, and they always encouraged the club to go all out to come out on top and flourish.
However, Massimo Moratti could not emulate his father’s brilliance until his final years as the president, ultimately fulfilling his ambition with the 2010 Treble as the iconic squad commanded by Jose Mourinho and spearheaded by skipper Javier Zanetti and striker Diego Milito etched their names in Inter Milan’s history books.
⚫️🔵 #OTD in 2010, Inter became 6th club in history to win the treble 🏆🏆🏆
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) May 22, 2020
Although, they achieved all of this at a massive cost: Moratti racked up a fair bit of debts by overspending for transfers and wages, and the Moratti family, who was also selling Pirelli, informed Massimo that they could not go on with the current financial situation and Internacional was sold.
The club was completely bankrupt: Mourinho departed for Real Madrid, and players like Sneijder, Eto’o, Cambiasso, Maicon, and others performed at a dismal level while still being paid the same. The truth is that Inter was not purchased by a fanatical Italian new owner, but by Erik Thohir who undoubtedly lacked the financial and emotional wherewithal to reestablish the legendary Inter Milan side.
The Indonesian tycoon claimed publicly that he purchased the club in order to sell the Inter brand in the International (Asian) market, beginning with his native nation of Indonesia. The entire scheme collapsed, and Thohir incurred more debts, failing to repay the existing ones, resulting in the present ownership of Suning Holdings Group.
AC MILAN’S MANAGEMENT WOES
Milan have featured in 11 Champions League finals in their history, with 8 of them taking place while the team was owned by former Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, another man who was genuinely enthusiastic about the club he ran and knew how much-added value Milan could deliver to his Mediaset Media Empire and career in politics if they were successful.
— AC Milan (@acmilan) September 29, 2020
While Moratti had greater enthusiasm, Berlusconi had more drive since a prosperous Milan would strengthen his image and status. But later, Berlusconi ran into difficulties. Serious issues, not so much financial as they were personal and political in nature. Mediaset was experiencing financial difficulties, and he was unable to invest and focus sufficiently on Milan.
Although he often stated that he would choose a devoted and determined owner to keep AC Milan a powerhouse in Europe and Italy, he did not choose a competent leader in the former owner, Mr. Yonghong Li, who turned out to be a slightly improved version of Thohir.
Milan has been plagued by financial concerns. Since Silvio Berlusconi stepped down from the helm after an amazing 25 years, three other owners have come and acquired stakes in the club, but their condition has remained unchanged.
The majority of them were declared insolvent, and they were unable to handle the situation, so they withdrew. This entire scenario put the club’s finances in jeopardy, and whatever money they did have, they squandered on players who weren’t even somewhat suited for the club.
Not to suggest that foreign investors lack enthusiasm; just glance at PSG or Manchester City, but the Chinese investors acquired the team solely to commercialize football in Asia, particularly China. They did it for financial benefit, not for the club’s success.
FINANCIAL FAIR PLAY RULES
Management woes have a big hand in the downfall of both clubs in the past few years. But there are several other reasons for this as well. One of those factors is the establishment of UEFA Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations in European football, which requires all European football teams to spend the money depending on how much funds they generate rather than incurring losses every campaign.
Before the implementation of FFP, many Italian major clubs, notably Milan clubs, were controlled and funded by wealthy investors who freely poured fortunes into the team in order to acquire star players and fulfill the supporters’ hunger for winning. So, at such periods, both Milan teams always had a negative financial statement, indicating that they spent over their capacities.
Now with FFP restrictions in place, both Milan teams are no longer able to do so and must depend on what they generate to recruit players. Their lack of earning has also many reasons. Saying that Serie A has little commercial value makes little sense: it is correct that Italy’s first division does not bring in similar TV revenue as the Premier League or La Liga, but that can be equally be said about the Bundesliga or Ligue 1.
Even though they are not the most popular leagues, Juventus, PSG, and Bayern Munich have managed to remain among the elites. And the major reason for that is they have a strong sense of ownership, mindset, and a project. And that is the second true source of Milan and Inter’s problems: the absence of an impactful project.
DOMINATION BY JUVENTUS
Inter were enjoying their fifth straight Serie A crown with the magnificent treble-winning Jose Mourinho squad only a decade ago. The next year, AC Milan exacted their vengeance and won the league, with Inter finishing in second place.
With the exception of last season, Juventus has held the keys to Italy’s top flight since the 2011/12 season and dominated the league. With Conte as manager, Juventus went unbeaten for the entire 2011/12 Serie A season.
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) April 23, 2015
From that campaign until the 2019-20 season, Juventus utterly crushed the rest of the league, winning nine consecutive league titles and amassed a total of 36 Serie A titles, one less than both Milan clubs combined.
🏆 🏆 🏆 🏆 🏆 🏆 🏆 🏆 🏆
Nine straight for Juventus. An incredible accomplishment 👏 pic.twitter.com/sLZVvbenax
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) July 26, 2020
In football, wealth almost always triumphs. It is undeniably true in this context. Juventus are Italy’s wealthiest club, and Andrea Agnelli has successfully overseen it for the previous 11 years, employing the same economic model as Bayern Munich. Their scouting networks are focused on recruiting the top players in Serie A, not always the greatest players in the world. In simpler terms, they maintain their supremacy by undermining the other teams in the league.
Because of Juventus’ overwhelming dominance, the Milan clubs have taken a back seat; nevertheless, last season provided a completely different picture and was probably a step in the right direction for both clubs.
7 – AC Milan will return to play the UEFA Champions League for the first time since 2013/14 (when they were eliminated in the Last 16 against Atletico Madrid), 7 seasons ago. Back.#AtalantaMilan pic.twitter.com/ZzMRxf4KF6
— OptaPaolo 🏆 (@OptaPaolo) May 23, 2021
However, both clubs have been under tremendous financial strain, as have a number of other clubs, as a result of the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic, and are offloading players in large numbers. What the future holds for AC Milan and Inter Milan will be intriguing to witness.