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Inter Milan: We're Buying Back Our Football Club

Inter Milan is owned by a Chinese ccompany. Now a smart economist and hundreds of thousands of fans want to buy back the club. The role model is: FC Bayern.

Carlo Cottarelli doesn't like to be in public. The Italian economist also usually avoids any form of exuberance or sentimentality. The 67-year-old, one of the most renowned economists in Europe, rarely makes exceptions: when it comes to the political future of his country. And now, no less important, to save his heart club. "You never forget your first love," emphasizes Cottarelli incessantly on television, in interviews and in guest articles in the newspapers of his home country.

Indeed, he has not forgotten his love for the Internazionale Football Club from Milan, it is perhaps stronger than ever. Cottarelli has big plans for Inter, one of Italy's most famous clubs, which has been in the hands of Chinese retail giant Suning and a California mutual fund for several years. The man is planning nothing less than a revolution from below, a takeover of the club by virtue of the black and blue people. Inter Milan is to change hands through a huge crowdfunding campaign. The initiative is called Interspac and was launched by Cottarelli. It would be a unique event in the history of Italian, even European football. 

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The concept is relatively simple, three pillars are to be activated for the takeover. First: a crowd of small shareholders who are ready to invest between 500 and 1,000 euros as soon as Interspac is listed on the stock exchange. Second: somewhat more potent financiers with a certain degree of awareness, for example actors or ex-Inter players, whose support in turn would be the best advertising and a leap of faith for small investors. In the third step, companies should also join, preferably regional ones, in order to consolidate their roots in the city and the region.

So you could say that Cottarelli wants to create a counter-model to the latest trends in global football, to investors from North America or the states from the Gulf region who are either aiming for returns or want to polish their image in the world - as with the two, for example Manchester clubs United and City, the Qatari prestige property Paris Saint-Germain or the workers' club Newcastle United, which has recently been taken over by the Saudi Arabian state fund PIF . Interspac, says Cottarelli, is an emotional matter. But in the end it is like this: The support of the Tifosi from Inter, the 19-time and reigning champions, is given with the prospect of glory and trophies. In Italy, but also in Europe.

Can it work? At first glance, the project may sound like a utopia, a nice idea that has to fail due to the reality in the global soccer industry. Particularly as special conditions apply in Italy - there the clubs were ruled for decades by influential patriarchs who did nothing better than to admire their reflection in the golden trophies. But Cottarelli, that much is certain, is not a fanatic. On the contrary: he is a person of numbers, a walking slide rule with a keen sense for what is possible.

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Cottarelli was a director at the International Monetary Fund in Washington for a long time, which gives him the status of an omniscient crisis manager to this day. The Italians trust him when the economic or political situation is tough again, they appreciate his level-headedness and intellectual acumen. When, for example, the parliamentarians were unable to agree on a coalition in 2019, it was Cottarelli who was commissioned by President Sergio Mattarella to forge a new alliance. But the pragmatist was really happy when a new government was in place just a few days later.

Cottarelli's latest commitment has nothing to do with a sense of duty, of course, the immovable devotion to Inter is one of the few constants in the life of the globetrotter. Cottarelli relies on this passion for others as well, and the first signs give hope: A survey showed that 100,000 followers would be there immediately; many of the Tifosi would have preferred to transfer the money straight away. And that in times of the pandemic, which continues to depress the economy.

It is estimated that hundreds of millions could be taken if enough people join in. Inter is the second most popular club in Italy, right after arch rivals Juventus, and up to seven million are said to be part of the hard core. Not counting the many fans all over the world. The popularity of the national celebrities is already huge: Former Inter actors such as Marco Materazzi, Walter Zenga, Beppe Bergomi, the legendary strikers Roberto Boninsegna and Alessandro Altobelli, the star tenor Andrea Bocelli, the rock musician Luciano Ligabue and the director Gabriele have already confirmed Salvatores.

The initiator Cottarreli had envisaged such a cross-sectoral mobilization. Pillar number three, the financial injections from the economy, is still a bit shaky. The economist always cites FC Bayern as a role model : 25 percent of the record champions' shares are held by the large Bavarian corporations Allianz, Adidas and Audi. This guarantees long-term and profitable partnerships without having to relinquish decision-making authority to capital.

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A bit of "Mia san mia" between the club and the Lombardy industry, that's something they would also like at Interspac. However, there were still no tangible signals to be heard in this regard, despite cold calls from nearby candidates. For example, Massimo Moratti, for many years president of the club and son of Angelo, who created the "Grande Inter", which is still legendary today, has canceled. The oil magnate always genuinely loved Inter, but he also appreciated the role of the dazzling patron. Just being a second tier financier now? Obviously this is not for him.

Moratti sold Inter eight years ago, after which the club ended up with the Chinese company Suning. However, no one has been seen by the owner family in Milan for a long time, neither Suning boss Zhang Jindong nor his son and Inter-President Steven Zhang. No wonder, they have just enough to do at home: The impending bankruptcy of the Chinese real estate giant Evergrande, it is said in Italy, has set in motion an avalanche that could also sweep Suning. And then there is the pandemic, which not only caused dire losses for the Zhangs. They have signed a number of sponsorship deals for Inter in China in recent years, and sales have risen rapidly. But now the situation is different. The Milan balance sheet is currently missing 50 million euros because the partners from the Far East are no longer transferring any money.

So there seems to be a need to act. The first takeover offer is expected to be received by Suning in November, and the heads and supporters of Interspac are extremely confident that the purchase will work out. Why? Cottarelli thinks it's actually very simple: everything that comes from the fans is solid and long-lasting.

But time is running, capital is also moving in parallel. The state fund from Saudi Arabia, it is said, would like to add another club to its portfolio after Newcastle United: Inter Milan.

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