Paolo Scaroni gave two extensive interviews to La Gazzetta dello Sport and il Corriere della Sera, speaking at length about his time so far at Milan, the plans for the future and more.
Next week will mark 2 months since the start of the Elliott era at Milan, as the American hedge fund took over the Rossoneri from the hands of Yonghong Li, who defaulted on his loans.
The person who was chosen to be Elliott’s man at the club is Paolo Scaroni, a life-long Milanista and former CEO of the Italian energy company Eni. The Diavolo President brought Leonardo and Paolo Maldini back to the club and he is trying to bring Ivan Gazidis for the CEO role.
“I was first part of the Board of Directors [during the Yonghong Li days] and then was elected President [with Elliott]? I joined the board on the recommendation of Elliott and already at the time I was told that if they would ever become the owners of Milan, they could think of me as President,” Scaroni said in an interview with Friday’s edition of La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“I gave my availability, even if at the time it was difficult to think that it could happen. None of us could’ve imagined it. Even the epilogue of July 21 [the day he was appointed as President] was unexpected because no one, starting from me, imagined that Yonghong Li wouldn’t do the capital increases that he himself deliberated and written a year before.
“When the last increase was unsuccessful, it was a surprise for everyone. It was a double surprise: one, that he didn’t have the money, and two, that he didn’t try to sell the club to potential buyers. And so I found myself President in a completely unexpected way. For me, the behavior of Mr. Li was inexplicable: a gentleman who drew up a plan and didn’t respect his own plan.
“The first word that comes to mind when I see myself as President? Very lucky. For a Milanista, being the President of Milan is not bad. It will be even more fun when we have a CEO, because I’m a complement. Actually, I’m very busy, I need someone to do it as a steady job.
“Concrete progress has been made with Ivan Gazidis for the CEO role? We are not in a hurry, there is no deadline. Let’s say that within a few weeks the problem will be solved. It’s a choice that should not be made under pressure. It will be a figure with a very strong commercial connotation. As for Gazidis, he already has an employer [Arsenal] and it’s not nice to talk about it.
“What is the strategy of Elliott for Milan? In football, success and failure are extremely visible. The impact is crazy. So Elliott, on one hand, looks at this investment from a financial point of view, and on the other hand as something that can benefit its reputation. They care that Milan will return to being the Milan that has made 400 million around the world fall in love. Elliott gives a lot of attention to this club, and then Paul and Gordon Singer are both great football fans.
“The medium-term time frame is confirmed? They have a design of 3-5 years. Liverpool and Arsenal, for example, are valued at €2 billion. We need to create a value and to do it we need time.
“What in practice does it mean ‘returning to the glories of the past’? A club like Milan must achieve sporting results, and the glories refer to this. In economic terms, however, we cannot forget that Milan had a turnover of €200-210 million in 2003 and today we are still at the same figure. Meanwhile, Real Madrid, Man United and Man City have increased [their turnovers] by 4 times.
“Money and sporting results must progress together, the sporting part cannot go on its own, and you need a managerial job behind it. In addition, we have the constraints of the Financial Fair Play: it is no longer enough to have money. We, in sporting terms, have taken a big step forward in bringing Leonardo and Maldini to Milan, they are quality people, who are expects and great lovers and connoisseurs of the club. They give you a reassuring sense of home.
“In financial terms, we have made a capital increase of €50m. This is a financially sound club, the balance sheet is in place and this has also been decisive for UEFA. Without these accounts and with different faces, we wouldn’t have gone to Europe. Now we need to increase revenues. We need to drag Milan out of those €210m… I repeat, we have 400 million fans in the world. We must be able to have sponsors interested in reaching these fans in a reasoned manner. But it’s something that takes years, not months. On this ground Milan has done very little in recent years.
“Stadium ownership an important item in revenues? The first condition is to have a modern stadium. Then it can be owned by the Municipality, this is not the essential factor. And I don’t exclude that two can play there [Milan and Inter]. My mind is open to all solutions. Among other things, San Siro is an icon, a success story for both Milanese sides. The dialogue with Inter started profitably. If Elliott has any ideas on listing Milan on the Stock Exchange? It’s something that I have never heard of.
“How long until Milan can get back to contending Juventus’ supremacy? Yesterday in the Lega, I looked at the board with 7 consecutive badges and I reflected on the fact that today the Scudetto is worth a little less than 15-20 years ago. Winning the Scudetto is beautiful, but the world of football has become that of the Champions League. And for us what matters is to come back, but I would like to emphasize that it is not a forecast included in the plans with which we presented ourselves to UEFA. We talked about the Europa League and not about the Champions League. Ours is a medium-long term program of a young team that must clot and strengthen, without stress.
“When will we see Milan again among the top 8 in Europe? We did not give ourselves a timetable. But it’s a goal that is within Elliott’s plan, so in 3-5 years we’re already talking about it. And anyways, the Champions League attracts more than the Scudetto.
“My relationship with Silvio Berlusconi? I met him in the mid-eighties, when he wasn’t yet the Berlusconi that we all know. I told him that my son and I were Milanisti and the next day we got a hundred thousand lire in Rossoneri shares. So I’m still a shareholder [laughs]. With Monza now he will have crazy fun. He and Galliani understand football a lot, not like me.
“How can we define Mr. Li, who also promised to bring Milan back to the top of the world? He’s a question mark that hasn’t been answered and maybe will never be. I’ve seen him three times in my life, I’ve never talked to him because he does not speak any language other than Cantonese. But I don’t care about what happened, I look ahead. Certainly it was an unexplainable story, I didn’t understand a single thing. But I think about what Milan should do in the next 2 years, not about Li.
“What kind of CEO was Fassone? We didn’t share many things and several of these things I only saw later because they weren’t brought to the Board. This for me is a subject of criticism. In terms of choices, like separating from MI Stadio [the company that manages San Siro and related activities]. I found myself in disagreement [with Fassone], it seemed to me to be the wrong decision.
“What didn’t work in particular in the Chinese Milan? The continuous back and forth on the money. Games are won by the teams, but championships are won by the clubs. We spent time talking about missing millions and certain things came up to the locker room. We had to have the famous last €32m [capital increase] because if they weren’t put there we couldn’t have registered to Serie A. How does a club like Milan live like this? It creases a sense of precariousness that is harmful to everyone.
“If Gattuso with Leonardo and Maldini is the perfect team? Gattuso has all the trust of the club, and in particular that of Leonardo and Maldini. A trust that rests on a solid basis, the results speak for him.
“Why should UEFA give Milan the Voluntary Agreement? In fact, we’re not at all sure of it. We are waiting for the motivations of CAS, which I imagine will arrive in 2 weeks. We will have a sanction, and we will also have to be credible in our plans for the next few years. If we write, like happened in the past, that things will be fine because we’ll collect €150m from China then we’re not being credible. However, I have come up with the idea that the double change of ownership can lead UEFA to being a little more flexible. Or at least, these are my hopes. We cannot exclude the Voluntary Agreement because ours will be a special case. Otherwise, we’ll settle for a Settlement Agreement.
“What should the fans expect from this Milan? We have guaranteed a club and a solid team: with this combination we can achieve any goal.”
Scaroni also gave an interview to today’s edition of il Corriere della Sera: “What have I understood about football in these two months? That there are two mountains to climb: one of building a winning team and another of getting [Milan’s] accounts back on its feet. They’re climbed together because one supports the other. The sporting side is the most important: I think we’ve made giant steps in that respect, bringing home Leonardo and Maldini, who are competent and quality people, as well as being Milanisti. It is rare to see one in the absence of the other, now perhaps Leonardo is more involved in the course for Sporting Director, but otherwise they move in complete harmony.
“If bringing Leonardo and Maldini or signing Higuain gave me the greatest satisfaction? Their arrivals gave the club confidence, which turned into an increase in season ticket sales. However, the truth is told on the pitch. The team seem young and strong to us, and we hope they yield results. The second success is that we’ve built a club who are in a strong financial position. In the last year, most of the articles talked about money, that ‘the €10m arrived, did not arrive…’ Now the balance sheet is solid and fully compliant with UEFA’s regulations. The third major issue remains: increasing revenue.
“In Italy, apart from Juventus, everyone is light years behind? I would like to say that Italy has accumulated delays in many areas in recent years. I don’t understand what happened. For 15 years, Milan have not increased their revenues: in 2003 they made €200m, in the meantime others have tripled them. When I read that Manchester United gets €800 million, I feel bad, because we won more than them and we have an extraordinary basis for success: €400 million fans around the world.
“What are the objectives of this year? On a sporting level we didn’t set the Champions League as an objective this season, even if that’s where Milan should be. I’m of the idea that, as football has evolved, the Scudetto has become less important. For Milan, it would be better to be in the Champions League and do well in it. If Juventus will win the Champions League with Cristiano Ronaldo? I wish them that. They’ve made a titanic effort to build a strong team and club.
“Corporate objectives? To equip ourselves with a club who are able to exploit their international presence. Developments in the negotiations with Gazidis? It goes on. The process of selecting a CEO must be done calmly and well. Every time there is some slowdown I reassure everyone by saying that in the meantime I’m here, I already spend half my time here, I put it all in.
“The CEO must have a profile that goes with our goals: the first is to crease revenues. It’s the starting point: if we make €800m, we can afford Ronaldo. How long will Elliott remain? The plan is in the medium term. Let’s say three to five years. Who is dealing with Milan in practice? The directors are Franck Tuil, Stefano Cocirio and Giorgio Furlani, the latter is the one with whom we talk more. Gordon Singer [the son of Elliott founder and owner Paul Singer]? He has other things to do, but he has come to Milanello, he has met Gattuso twice and we went to dinner at Rino’s restaurant.
“I have a different attitude than that of Berlusconi who used to give a lot of advice to his coaches? I would never allow myself… I would suggest nonsense, Berlusconi knows football much more than I do. If Gattuso should feel comfortable and not think about the ghost of Conte? Absolutely, but I don’t think that he gets agitated. He is my coach, because he has done well. Then, I like him because he takes this job with total seriousness, he has this air that lets everyone with him know that there’s nothing to laugh about. I’ve found him to be great.
“If Berlusconi has given me advice? I met Berlusconi in a better way in 2002 when I was in London, I was introduced by the Italian ambassador. He was looking for a CEO with international experience for ‘Enel e Eni’. In my 12 years in ‘Enel e Eni’ we saw each other from time to time. Now I rarely hear from him, I invited him to the game, but he hasn’t called me to give me advice. Occasionally I dine with Galliani to take the opportunity to ask things. Now they’ve embarked on the Monza adventure.
“What I understood about the mysterious Chinese experience? More than anything else, it’s what I didn’t understand. The capital increases that Milan needed were known, and had been approved by Li, not by anyone else. For which reason he agreed if he didn’t have money, I don’t know; and for what reason he didn’t sell in the end, again, I don’t know. But at this point it doesn’t interest me.
“If I have information on the penalty awaiting Milan from UEFA? We’re moving on an unknown territory, there are no precedents similar to ours. We have a problem of the past, because the violation was on the pre-Chinese budgets. Now we’re awaiting UEFA for the motivations of CAS who said there needs to be a fair sanction, and I hope we are given the smallest sanction possible. Then, there is the three-year period which starts from 2017-18, for which Milan will have to provide a credible plan. We are getting ready.
“If we want a modernized San Siro with Inter or an owned stadium? There is no doubt that a modern stadium contributes decisively to revenues. Whether it’s a renovated San Siro or a new stadium is the object of the study we have entrusted to independent consultants. I try to put some common sense in the study, one that knows Italy and knows that certain operations can take 10 years.
“The reconstructing of San Siro is a hypothesis that exists, also because the cohabitation with Inter has been successful.”