On July 10th, hedge fund Elliott Advisors (UK) took control of AC Milan when majority shareholder Yonghong Li defaulted on a €31m payment due on the loan he secured to buy the legendary club from Silvio Berlusconi.
If the club had been in turmoil before that date, it’s nothing compared to what’s happened since. Elliott has been cleaning house. First out the door was general secretary Giuseppe Mangiaran.
On Tuesday, Elliott got out the big broom. Into the dustbin have gone chief executive Marco Fassone, and — this is the important bit — sporting director Massimiliano Mirabelli. Mirabelli is expected to be replaced by Leonardo within the next day or two.
This means that any deals that Milan had been exploring are now either on ice or dead. Some may be resurrected, but at the very least, there will be delays. And the Premier League’s transfer deadline is just a day over two weeks away.
This affects Chelsea in at least three ways.
One, 19-year-old goalkeeping talent Gianluigi Donnarumma was, at least in the newspapers, a potential replacement for Thibaut Courtois, should he leave for Real Madrid. With a clean sweep of management, there could be renewed emphasis in keeping the teenager and building for the future around him. If Donnarumma had been on Chelsea’s list, he probably drops at least a few places lower.
Two, Milan were deeply involved in rumors about buying a new striker. The now-departed Marco Fassone and Massimiliano Mirabelli had dinner with Alvaro Morata and his agent just five days ago, in London. Morata reportedly expressed interest in leaving the bumps and bruises of England behind and picking up in Milan. Who knows if Leonardo shares their interest in Morata or if he’ll even be able to make a deal before the window slams shut?
Gattuso: "Morata? You can talk to Mirabelli and Fassone. I can only say that I like all the good players. If we make something [in the mercato] it must be something important, because if not we will remain like that."— Milan Eye (@MilanEye) July 20, 2018
Further, Milan had also reportedly expressed interest in Gonzalo Higuain, who is now an expensive bench-weight at Juventus (thanks to incoming Cristiano Ronaldo). With the Serie A transfer window closing one week later than the Premier League’s, a domestic transfer might be easier for them to execute. The Chelsea angle, of course, is that Higuain would then stay in Italy instead of rejoining Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea, which probably wouldn’t be the worst outcome.
Three, Antonio Conte and his lawsuit against Chelsea might be in play. Before the big changes at Milan, there had been whispers that manager Gennaro Gattuso might be ditched and Conte hired. But the rumors never seemed to gain traction. If Elliott are true to their word about investing in the club, then hiring a high-profile manager like Conte might be seen as a statement of intent.
If Conte takes a new job, he’s no longer eligible for the remaining time of said year’s worth of wages, which would save Chelsea several million. New employment would also presumably save both sides the ugly distraction of a legal battle, and perhaps a quick settlement would be reached for a token amount (Conte did get sacked after all and that means some compensation is due for time unemployed and a penalty or loyalty bonus for the sacking itself).
Milan may be 1300 kilometers from London but their fluid situation could yet have wide-range repercussions that would be felt all the way in West London.