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AC Milan announce Emirates sponsorship deal

Dubai government-owned Emirates airline is to sponsor AC Milan from next season in a four-year shirt deal worth around 50 million euros ($68.31 million), a source close to the Italian club said on Monday.

The Arab world's largest airline, which also sponsors Arsenal's stadium among other European soccer endorsements, will replace Austrian online betting group Bwin as Milan's shirt sponsor from July 2010 until June 2014.

The deal, to be announced in Milan "in the next few days" in the presence of the airline's chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, does not include the sale of a stake in the club as some media outlets had previously reported.

However, the source added further possible investments in the seven-times European champions, owned by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, might be considered in due course depending on the success of the commercial partnership.

"It's a friendship, it can become love or remain a friendship," said the source who declined to be identified. "What is certain is there is enthusiasm in Dubai for this deal."

Milan, third in Serie A after an inconsistent first half of the season, have often been linked in the media with Arab investors but Berlusconi has denied he wants to sell.

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