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Inter Milan FC: Celebrations and concerns at same time

Inter Milan claimed their 19th Scudetto and the first one since their treble-winning season of 2010 in April. They dethroned Juventus as the champions of Italy after their nine-year run came to an end. However, the journey to the pinnacle of Italian football has been painful and intriguing for Inter. Most importantly, this is the first big trophy under Chinese owners, so let us dive into this ownership at one of the biggest Italian clubs.

The Resurgence

In 2016, Suning Holdings Group a company owned by Chinese Billionaire Zhang Jindong acquired a majority stake of Inter Milan from Thohir’s consortium International Sports Capital S.p.A. and Moratti family’s remaining shares in Internazionale Holding S.r.l. Zhang is also the co-founder and chairman of Suning Commerce Group.  The Chinese firm invested roughly around €270 million and later acquired  68.55% stake in the club.

After some mediocre seasons with different managers, there was another modification in ownership of Inter in 2019. LionRock Capital from Hong Kong reached an agreement with Inter to acquire its 31.05% shares and become the club’s new minority shareholder.

The new ownership didn’t bring a change of fortunes on the pitch as Inter were struggling and kept changing managers before appointing Antonio Conte in 2019 on a three-year contract. Inter started knocking on the door as they finished second in Serie-A table in 2019/20. They ended one point behind Serie A winners Juventus. Moreover, they also succumbed to 3-2 defeat against Sevilla in the UEFA Europa League final.

Even the 2020/21 season didn’t go well for Inter in Europe as they finished fourth in their Champions League group stage. However, they eventually managed to clinch the league title. The victory in Serie A came at a cost. Inter spent close to €200 million on incoming transfers in 2020. The biggest transfer expenditure came in the deal that brought Romelu Lukaku to the club from Premier League side Manchester United as they paid a total of €74.162 million for the Belgian striker. The Italian club’s next biggest signing was for Nicolo Barella €40.5 million. Christian Eriksen arrived from Tottenham Hotspurs in January 2019 for €27 million. Apart from these big signings, Inter agreed to sign numerous experienced players for Conte. These signings are instrumental in Inter’s success as Lukaku formed an incredible partnership with Lautaro Martinez the duo has 57 goals between them, providing them attacking impetus to blow away other teams in the league. (Stats courtesy: Transfermarkt)

Problems in Suning’s paradise

In March 2021, Suning Appliance Group decided to shut down a football club Jiangsu Football Club in Jiangsu raising concerns that in order to reduce the debt of the company they could turn to a more prized asset in Inter Milan.

Jiangsu Football Club, owned by Suning since 2015, confirmed that it would cease operations, without elaborating. Shenzhen International Holdings Ltd. and Shenzhen Kunpeng Equity Investment Management Co. planned to purchase 8% and 15% of Suning.com.’s shares, respectively, paying a total of $2.3 billion. Despite its 63-year history the Chinese champions no longer exist as it was deemed as a liability to the Chinese firm.

As per Forbes, Suning has sold 23% of the company’s shares to state-owned investors to improve the equity structure. The firm was also reportedly in negotiations with BC Partners to sell shares from Inter Milan, but there has not been a concrete breakthrough yet. Moreover, Italian media has also reported that Suning is also in talks with two firms Bain and Oaktree Group to take a loan to handle losses generated during the pandemic. As per Bloomberg, Inter Milan’s total debt is around $602 million.

Meanwhile, Inter Milan vice-president Javier Zanetti confirmed recently that due to loss of sponsor and match-day income, the club’s finances are significantly harmed. Even though winning Serie A is a moment to cherish for fans, but mismanagement by the Suning group could suggest that Inter will need miraculous coaching work with limited funds to enjoy sustained success. If there is an exodus in summer, then it will be difficult to see Antonio Conte staying at the club. There are celebrations in Milano and rightly so, but the future at the club is not looking promising as of now.

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