Silvio Berlusconi won't buy AC Milan back despite struggles
Former AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi has categorically ruled out buying the club back as they face financial difficulties under their new ownership.
UEFA last month rejected the Rossoneri's voluntary agreement plan in view of financial fair play (FFP) rules due to "uncertainties in relation to the refinancing of the loans to be paid back in October 2018."
The Serie A club could therefore face sanctions should they qualify for a European club competition next season, while more doubts have recently been raised about the club's financial situation, after over €200 million was committed to the signing of new players last summer, and in view of the likely absence of lucrative Champions League football next season.
There had been talk of Berlusconi buying the club back in a cut-price deal, but he told Il Foglio: "I don't want to give anybody false hope.
"It was a painful but necessary and definitive decision [to sell], even if Milan will continue to occupy the same place in my heart it has always occupied."
Part of that summer spending spree went into the arrival of Leonardo Bonucci from Juventus for a fee of €35m which, particularly in view of Virgil van Dijk's move from Southampton to Liverpool, is starting to look like something of a bargain, according to Milan's sporting director Massimiliano Mirabelli.
He says the thought of selling the defender on for a profit to ease the club's financial burden has not even been considered as he shrugs off the 30-year-old's struggles to settle in.
"Leo's difficulties were the same as everybody's," Mirabelli told RAI Radio. "Bonucci was voted the best Italian central defender and the best central defender by FIFA. We paid nearly €35m for him, and if you look at the other figures being spent, maybe we got him on the cheap. We're talking about a player who has done amazing things over the past seven years and won a lot.
"Bonucci is an extraordinary player. He knows he's not delivering his best, but we knew we'd have difficulties -- bringing together 11 new players with the problems we've had, it's been harder than we expected, but if you look around at other clubs, there are other players who struggle to settle in so it's clearly harder here since the whole team's new.
"No, [we are] absolutely not [thinking of selling Bonucci] -- we've made many sacrifices to sign these players. We just need to ensure that these players can, as soon as possible, become a squad.
"You never build a squad in one single transfer window, but we have a lot of faith in the team we have built, and we have a squad with a low average age and, in future, this could form a solid spine."
Not only FFP has frozen Milan's spending this winter. Mirabelli also says his club could not afford to sign any players better than those they already have anyway, due to an explosion in prices on the transfer market.
"The transfer market is on drugs, with crazy prices," he said. "Top players are the likes of Neymar, [Lionel] Messi, [Cristiano] Ronaldo -- Coutinho is a great player, I don't deny it, but they've paid €160m for him! We've got to ensure we don't get crushed by what's happening in the market in Spain and in England.
"We know that we've signed players for the right price and we know we're never going to see any depreciation on what we've spent."
Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.