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28 Jun 2018

AC Milan: Will the Rossoneri purgatory ever end?

AC Milan: Will the Rossoneri purgatory ever end?

With the news of their two-year ban from European competition, AC Milan's struggles continue.

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Breaking the rules

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A widening gap

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Financial questions

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A divine act

(Photo credit: Maarten Van Damme)

Picture, if you will, Purgatory. A realm sandwiched between here and there. Heaven to Hell. 

It’s a constant metaphor for us all. What are we if not embedded within constant purgatory? Simply waiting, existing until the story comes to a close, in its current form at least. 

Purgatory, as a state, does not wait until our passing. It can be a waiting room, a commute, a traffic jam or a layover. It’s that state of being in-between. Neither here nor there. We find ourselves in transit between moments. 

But despite our existence in the in-between, purgatory does have a specific ending. 

For followers of AC Milan, latest breaking news of a ban from UEFA’s European competitions for a year represents yet another descent into purgatory for the club, another new start to another new journey. 

Rossoneri worldwide will once more be asking how it has come to pass that their beloved Milan are starting, for the umpteenth time at Canto I. 

In what has become a familiar pattern for Milanista, Milan’s journey back to the summit of Italian football will have to begin again, from square one.

Breaking the rules

UEFA, European football’s governing body, has sanctioned the Italian Serie A side for failing to abide by the rules laid out within the financial fair play policy that UEFA deployed to gloss over their failure to deal with the piping of large sums of cash into the European game. 

In its simplest iteration, the policy asks that clubs ensure that they do not spend outside of their means, that they spend fairly and responsibly. 

Milan have been found to have failed to meet UEFA FFP policy, in particular, the rules about breaking even. This means that Milan have spent beyond limits imposed by UEFA rulings.

REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

The price of doing so has ensured that Milan will have to forfeit their involvement in European competition for a single tournament that the club qualifies for over the next two seasons. 

AC Milan had already qualified for the 2018/2019 Europa League, and it is likely that they will be removed from competing in this tournament. 

This would make them eligible to compete in the 2019/2020 season but there is no guarantee that Milan will qualify or pass next season’s FFP commitments, which will seem to be even tighter without European football prize money and television cash.

A widening gap

The long-term impact of the FFP policy is that mid-tier clubs and stumbling giants will be locked out of the upper echelons of European Competition - in essence, closing off the competition. 

Those who are able to regularly compete in the final stages of the Champions League and the Europa League will be afforded more cash to compete, and thus spend fairly. 

Those who can only enjoy fleeting glimpses of European competition will be stuck outside looking in - and not because they cannot afford it but because they aren’t allowed to spend, lest they be punished for creating unallowable losses. 

The spending limits for clubs within the circle of the two main European cups will be higher than those who are outside.

Financial questions

Milan’s fresh start will ensure two things - that they cannot better their 2017/2018 performance in the Europa League and that the club's current financial situation will still be dominated by a large shroud. 

In 2017, Yonghong Li’s deal to purchase the club from long-time owner, Silvio Berlusconi fell to shreds as investors left the consortium. 

Li, facing cash-flow restrictions due to the consortium’s base in his native China, restarted the consortium in Luxembourg. Rossoneri Sports Investment Lux, or RSIL, was the vehicle that Li used to complete the purchase of the football club from Berlusconi for a fee that surpassed the 700 Million Euro mark.

(Photo credit: paz.ca)

Doubts, some rooted in xenophobia, surfaced almost immediately. Li’s group had already failed to meet down payments on the purchase of the club set by Berlusconi’s FinInvest group and had issued a fake bank letter as proof of cash flow. 

Doubts were further legitimised when Elliott Management, a well-known ‘Vulture Fund’ ensured Li could buy the club, by loaning the Chinese businessman money. It is assumed that when Li defaults on his loans, that Elliott will be able to complete an instant takeover of the club. 

Elliott have continued to pump money into Li’s venture, which is running out of steam. Sooner or later, the fund will take control over Milan. Another new start and, with plenty of rumoured takeover bids in the mix, it is only a beginning that will beget another.

A divine act

No-one is quite sure of what Elliott’s reign at the club will bring but it certainly won’t bring European competition unless Milan’s appeal against the ruling is successful. 

Following years of austerity after their last Champions League adventure in 2014, a net spend of around €150 million and massive wages brought Milan’s ambition to heel. 

The additions of Andre Silva, Leonardo Bonucci, Lucas Biglia heralded a new era at the club. However, these marquee deals, with their heaping costs spread over a number of years, have ensured that the club will pay the price of ambition lacking in foundation. 

REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

If Milan are unable to cut costs and realign themselves with UEFA’s policies, it will take a divine act for them to enter European competition anytime soon.

The Milanese timeline for the red-half of the city has not followed the straight and narrow for a long while. The timeline is now bent, over and over - almost consuming itself in a bid to refresh, reboot and start over. It is 2015, 2016, 2017 all over again, and again. 

Milan’s own purgatory is one created by themselves, and one bolstered by the administrators of the European game. UEFA’s punishment is large, and one of a kind - but, who would better exemplify the seven deadly sins other than the Diavolo of Milan?

How do AC Milan come back from this? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.