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 By Ben Gladwell

Silvio Berlusconi writes open letter to AC Milan fans following sale of club

Silvio Berlusconi has written an open letter to AC Milan fans, telling them of his "grief and emotion" at having to sell the Serie A club to Chinese investors.

Berlusconi's 31-year era as owner of Milan officially came to an end on Thursday, when a deal to sell the club to the Rossoneri Sport Investment Lux group was completed.

Over his three decades at the helm, the club won eight Serie A titles and five Champions Leagues in a haul of 29 trophies, but Berlusconi felt he could no longer compete in an evolving landscape which he says requires greater investment than he could provide.

"I leave today, after more than thirty years, the ownership and the presidency of AC Milan," he wrote on the club's official website. "I do it with grief and emotion, but knowing that modern football, to compete at the top level in Europe and in the world, needs investments and resources that only one family cannot support.

"I will never forget all the emotions that AC Milan gave me and to all of us. I will never forget all the people thanks to whom I had the chance to become the president of this club that have won so much.

"First of all, of course, the great coaches and the great players who made all our achievements possible, achievements that will forever be part of football history. It would be impossible to thank them one by one: to all of them a big hug.

"The same hug I wish to give to all the managers and the staff who made AC Milan not only a team but a model club in the world of football. Among these people, the first one to thank is Adriano Galliani, who was our engine and the person who tirelessly built this club.

"But most of all, my deepest thank you from the bottom of my heart goes to our fans. To the millions of supporters who filled the stadiums to shout Forza Milan, to all the others, even more, who being physically far away showed us their support with great enthusiasm.

Silvio Berlusconi and Adriano Galliani have departed AC Milan.

"Without all of them, our glorious AC Milan wouldn't have existed and would not exist today. Together with them, we won everything there was to win. I have in my eyes and in my heart, thousands of different moments where the affection showed by our fans was something extraordinary and really touching.

"What I want to say to them is that -- although today I leave this position -- I will forever be AC Milan's first fan, the team my father taught me to love when I was a child, the dream that we made come true together. I wish the new management to achieve even more great results than we did.

"To those who are staying, the players, the coach, the staff, to all our fans, to each and every one of them, from the bottom of my heart, I wish them to reach their goals and make their dreams come true, both in sport and in life, for them and their loved ones. Once again, thank you all."

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Galliani, who Berlusconi thanked first, was given a standing ovation at a meeting of club directors at the Lega Serie A headquarters in Milan on Thursday. His position at the Rossoneri will now be taken by former Inter Milan general manager Marco Fassone, with the change taking place immediately -- ahead of Saturday's Milan derby.

"It's going to be the first Chinese derby in Serie A," Galliani said at the start of a Lega Serie A assembly, confirming that the sale had indeed gone through.

"We all stood up to applaud him, to pay homage to a person with great values whose enormous experience can always be useful," the Lega's acting president Ezio Maria Simonelli said.

That "Chinese derby" between two clubs now under predominantly Chinese ownership has broken a Serie A record for gate receipts. Just days after Juventus broke through the €4 million barrier for their Champions League tie with Barcelona at the Juventus Stadium, Saturday lunchtime's sold-out clash at the San Siro is set to guarantee unprecedented turnstile riches for Inter.

Almost 80,000 fans will follow proceedings live in the stadium guaranteeing Inter more than the €3,943,000 they earned from gate receipts for their league clash with Juventus earlier this season, when not all visiting tickets were sold. The game is also expected to be seen by almost a billion spectators worldwide, with the lunchtime kick-off ensuring a large following -- estimated at over 500 million -- in China.

Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.

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