Gazidis on ‘sustainability’ in football, why Financial Fair Play needs to be ‘fair’, rebuilding Milan from the ground up, his rapport with Maldini and more…

Ivan Gazidis during training at Milanello. (

Ivan Gazidis has given a long interview to La Repubblica’s Affari & Finanza, discussing many different things.

The ‘path’, as he calls it – the path to financial sustainability and a return to sporting competitiveness is not over. A major milestone, the Scudetto, was reached 3 months ago and it is proof that one can win also while keeping the accounts under control, favoring ‘studied’ investments over the crazy spending of modern-day football.

The path is at the halfway point and while trying to bridge the gap from the giants in Europe, Milan are going through yet another change of ownership, with RedBird taking over from Elliott (the ‘closing’ should arrive early next month).

For Ivan Gazidis, CEO of Milan, these could be the last months in office. Gazidis has helped revolutionize Milan and his part in the success of the Rossoneri on and off the pitch cannot be understated. However, with RedBird arriving, his future is uncertain.

Ivan Gazidis, Frederic Massara and Paolo Maldini before Marseille-Milan at Stade Vélodrome on July 31, 2022. (

Gazidis, meanwhile, focuses on the task in hand: “We need to sit down at a table to talk about the future, about how to bridge that huge gap between the English Premier League and the other European leagues and recoup the minimum conditions for a healthy and authentic competition,” the South African said in an interview with Roberto Rho of La Repubblica’s Affari & Finanza magazine.

What is the meaning of the world ‘sustainability’ when applied to the world of football?
“Football clubs are not companies that have to produce profits, but instead they are social and cultural institutions. This is why we have to put values at the center of the way we do business. And pay attention to the economic-financial aspects: the Calcio of rich owners – who pour money into the Club every year, spend millions in the transfer market and accumulate debts – no longer exists. The need for financial means has grown enormously and that model has caused insolvencies, relegation and dramatic losses of competitiveness of leagues. The issue, for us and for everyone, is to rebuild sporting competitiveness starting from these values.”

Noble intention, but doesn’t it risk being a bit abstract? Football clubs have very demanding stakeholders; their top priority is results on the pitch…
“Far from abstract. Values, sporting culture and financial discipline are the necessary condition for results. And values are what hold our community of more than 500 million fans around the world together.”

Ivan Gazidis before Marseille-Milan at Stade Vélodrome on July 31, 2022. (

Everything is much easier when you win. But don’t values and discipline in the budget risk being a disadvantage if they are not shared by everyone? If competitors have debts multiple compared to yours, if the repayment obligations are deferred year after year, if opposing players take the pitch without having received their salaries?
“On the contrary. I believe this is a competitive advantage for us.”

So tell me what should be done, in Italy and in Europe, to make sure that there are certain rules that are respected by everyone…
“We need a stable, credible and valid financial framework for everyone. Financial Fair Play must be implemented in a ‘fair’ and rigorous way. Beyond the institutional level, fans need to know that clubs can also continue to spend more than they can afford, but in the medium to long term this leads to a disaster. Directors who buy players at reckless figures may perhaps be able to continue their careers elsewhere, but the consequences of their actions, the rubble, will remain on the shoulders of the Club and therefore of the fans.”

Ivan Gazidis and Simon Kjær during training at Milanello. (

Let’s talk about Milan and what you’ve done in these 4 years…
“We inherited a Club with disappointing sporting performance and serious financial difficulties. We made radical choices, we rebuilt the Club from the ground up and brought it back to being competitive – in Italy and soon in Europe. Even more important than strategy is the way of doing things. In Italy I discovered a very hierarchical and formal approach: the President-Owner decides and dictates, the others execute. I brought a different style of leadership: a diverse team, people with different backgrounds, able to compare ideas and make common decisions.”

The strategy?
“First, sporting performance. The challenge was to reduce the wage bill and at the same time improve performance. We chose to sign young players and have them grow within the Club. Not expenses, but investments for the future. We decided to focus on a more physical ‘style of football’, aggressive, fast, inclined to go one-on-one. For this we needed an innovative and very objective-focused technical staff, courageous and able to withstand pressure: there is no other business where results are tested and discussed twice a week.”

Paolo Scaroni, Ivan Gazidis, Frederic Massara and Paolo Maldini before Vicenza-Milan at Stadio Romeo Menti on August 6, 2022. (

The choices of the people weren’t always easy…
“In order to identify young players with great growing potential, we needed ‘top class’ scouting and analytics structure: Geoffrey Moncada and his people do a fundamental job. I don’t think words are needed to describe the cultural and managerial value that Paolo Maldini and Frederic Massara – particularly the combination of the two –have brought to Milan. And finally Stefano Pioli: great understanding of modern football, great human qualities, total focus on work, without a complaint or a polemic.”

The sporting chronicles say that, at the end of the first season with Pioli, you would have liked to make a different choice [Ralf Rangnick]. And even with the management it did not go smoothly: the controversial farewell with Zvonimir Boban cost as much as getting a top player [€5.5 million], and with Paolo Maldini in the spring of this year there were tensions…
“I’d told Pioli: there will be a thousand rumours and speculation, but what happens at the end of the year will depend only on your performance. Certainly it was the responsibility of the Club to evaluate possible alternatives. But Pioli listened to me, the results came and his confirmation came naturally. As for Boban, there were no personal problems, the principle that the club comes first and above all is simply valid. Paolo Maldini – I recruited him not once, but 2 or 3 times, including the last renewal on which I expressed a favorable opinion to the new ownership.”

Frederic Massara, Paolo Maldini, Charles De Ketelaere and Ivan Gazidis at Casa Milan. (

We were talking about the pillars of the strategy. What is besides the sporting performance?
“The reconstruction of the Club on different foundations. When I arrived here, there was no Milan app: digitization and content production are very important to hold together a community that starts in Italy and ends in Australia. When I arrived, two-thirds of the business partners were Italian, today two-thirds are international. The value of commercial partnerships has multiplied. All revenues are invested in the Club: in the transfer market, but also in facilities, infrastructure, services, commercial capacity, analysis, and people… it’s a virtuous cycle: revenues fuel investment, which produces better performances, which produces new revenues.”

The distance, in terms of revenues, from Premier League clubs remains sidereal. It is well established that what most Italian clubs – including Milan – lack, is stadium ownership. Where are we at?
“I am optimistic that we can get to the approval of the final design of a modern stadium, capable of welcoming families, women, children and generating new revenues. We have to invest to have a new stadium, the money is there and it’s a cornerstone of our project. On where and when we cannot make firm predictions.”

Frederic Massara, Paolo Maldini and Ivan Gazidis during training at Milanello. (

Noted, San Siro or Sesto San Giovanni? Together with Inter or alone? You know that the overwhelming majority of Milanisti would like an all-Rossonero stadium…
“I know, it’s the dream of many fans, but you have to come to terms with the reality of a prohibitive investment for the financial balance of a single club. As I said I remain optimistic about San Siro but of course we must also have a plan B.”

When will the transfer of ownership between Elliott and RedBird take place?
“I am the CEO of Milan, we are the subject of this negotiation which is solely the responsibility of the shareholders. Seller and buyer have said that the ‘closing’ is scheduled for September and I don’t see any elements that could change the timing.”

Paolo Maldini, Tommaso Pobega, Ivan Gazidis and Frederic Massara at Casa Milan on August 5, 2022. (

Will Elliott guarantee financial support for the buyer? Will they remain in Milan’s board?
“Again, I don’t know the details of the negotiations. What I do know is that Elliott has great confidence in the value and expertise that RedBird can bring to the Club, with the shared objective of bringing Milan back to the top of European football. Paul and Gordon Singer’s fund has been a solid shareholder in difficult times: it could have stood still waiting for a buyer but instead decided to invest in growth.”

What kind of owner will Gerry Cardinale be?
“RedBird has great skills in the business of sports and a high international reputation. The message they have given us is a willingness to continue on a path that our virtuous management has started in recent years.”

Ivan Gazidis during training at Milanello. (

And will Ivan Gazidis still be at the head of the group or – as rumored – will he leave next fall?
“The right time to discuss this with the new ownership will be after the ‘closing’. What matters is not my personal things but the future of the Club.”

Let’s go back to where we started: the sustainability of European football. Will the Super League, after the thunderous crash at the start, somehow return to relevance in the near future?
“The Super League, at least in the scheme announced in the last months, seems to me to be an archived project. But those who say ‘we won’ are dead wrong: the tensions that generated the Super League projects are all still on the table. The English clubs remain dominant, they don’t need the Super League because the Premier League is already a Super League. Everyone else, starting with the prestigious clubs with a trophy case full of trophies and who are in dire straits today, have an absolute need to address the problem. Until ways are found to resolve the tensions in the system, they will continue to grow. It is time to sit down at a table, all together, to discuss them.”

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Serie A should start to shamelessly market itself as the best league in the world, the same way EPL marketed itself in the 90s when Serie A ruled the football world. If you keep telling lies, eventually people will start to believe you.