The Milan derby saw two clubs with even more in common than normal – Chinese owners and a dream of something bigger than Europa League qualification
The first all-Chinese Milan Derby was one to remember. Silvio Berlusconi had sold AC Milan to the new owners only 24 hours before the game, whilst Inter had been under the control of Suning Group since autumn. A Cristian Zapata last-second strike gave the Rossoneri a crucial 2-2 draw, a point that means a lot for the table standings and even more for the morale.
The fans saluted the old owners and welcomed the new: as we have mentioned a few times, Inter’s future seems far brighter than the present, with owner Zhang Jindong who promises to take the club back to the highest level of European football. The group is solid, the money is there. It’s a matter now of spending it properly and delivering on the pitch. This is how football works.
The situation for AC Milan is much different, the club being bought primarily by a broker, Yonghong Li, and the investors supporting him being thus far unknown. It is evidently a financial move more than one driven by passion; the idea is to make money with the club, something that in football rarely matches with on the pitch victories. Although, to make money with a football club, you need to win. Finding the right balance is the key for any team, more so for this AC Milan. Only time will tell if they can find it.
Before then, Serie A continues at its usual pace, and Saturday’s Derby della Madonnina was at its entertaining best. The record-breaking crowd – giving the biggest ever Serie A earning from the stands – was the frame for a spectacular game. The last minute equaliser was a photocopy of the first leg’s Derby back in November, with Ivan Perisic scoring then for Inter, and Zapata scoring now for Milan.
Before that, the Nerazzurri had gone two goals up in the first-half, missing out chances to round off and kill the game in the second. The Rossoneri resisted and then started creating chances, until both centre backs scored: Alessandro Romagnoli giving hope with the 1-2 and Zapata sending the fans to heaven with the draw.
Milan maintained a two-point lead over Inter in sixth place, the last clear spot to qualify for the Europea League, a necessity for both clubs. Missing out on Europe could mean an easier season to rebuild, but also a lack of international recognition to attract players, and of extra financial income.
With six games to go still in Serie A, Inter have all the time in the world to catch up with Milan. Either way, though, for the Rossoneri this season was transitional, and Vincenzo Montella’s great work delivered more than expected, with a European spot in hand and the Italian Supercup won in December over Juventus.
Inter look at this season differently: started with big money spending in the summer to bring in Joao Mario, Gabriel Barbosa and Antonio Candreva. With the team given to Frank de Boer, the Nerazzurri failed to find consistency and quickly collapsed to the middle of the table. With Stefano Pioli replacing De Boer right before the first Derby, Inter started climbing up the standings again, only to be sent back down with two points in their last four games. Now Inter will have to change a lot for next season, Pioli being likely one of the first to go.
For different reasons, the futures of both milanese clubs remain uncertain, yet exciting. Both teams have the history needed to return to the top level. With the money coming in and the possible rewards, the next Derby could be between two teams fighting for the title, rather than the last Europa League spot.