Just five years after former Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, sold his stake at AC Milan to Chinese investors, he returned to the sports limelight.
Berlusconi estimated €70m investment in AC Monza has paid off as the club gained promotion to Serie A, Italy’s top football division, via a play-off victory against Pisa.
“We fought for a year and we reached a historic milestone: AC Monza had never been in Serie A. We got there today. It’s a wonderful thing for us and all the citizens of Brianza,” Berlusconi told Sky Sport Italia.
Berlusconi, now 85, bought Monza in 2018 for €2.9m ($3.4m), making his brother Paolo club president and bringing onboard long-term collaborator and friend Adriano Galliani as CEO.
Together with Galliani, Berlusconi had turned AC Milan into a European powerhouse in the last three decades where they won eight Serie A titles and five Champions League trophies.
“I dream of a Milan-Monza derby by 2020,” Galliani stated at the time of purchase. It was a dream deferred but not to be denied.
Founded in 1912, AC Monza is a small club in a city more famous for its Formula 1 racing circuit than for its football. The club has changed ownership many times in its 110-year history, with varying amounts of success but never gaining enough push to reach the zenith of the sport, oscillating between promotions to Serie B and relegations to Serie C1 and C2.
When Berlusconi sold his stake in AC Milan for €723m ($858m) in 2017, he turned his focus to AC Monza a year later after being alerted to the availability of the club by Galliani. Galliani had played there as a young boy and held fond memories. For Berlusconi, whose Arcore residence is less than 10 kilometres from the club’s stadium, it was more passion than a business decision.
Through his holding company Fininvest, he has poured almost €70m into the club since his purchase. They topped Serie C in the first season afterwards and gained promotion to Serie B.
Star recruits such as Kevin-Prince Boateng and Mario Balotelli underlined Berlusconi’s desire for glamour, but they failed to achieve promotion. That was left to less glamorous operators like Christian Gytkjaer, Dany Mota and Jose Machin.
The Dane Gytkjaer scored three goals in their play-off double-header against Pisa as they needed extra time to finally gain promotion.
Berlusconi served as Prime Minister in four Italian governments, one of Italy’s richest men with an estimated wealth of $5.9bn (according to Forbes in 2012), Berlusconi has consistently made headlines in recent decades due to his financial dealings, inappropriate comments and infamous so-called “Bunga Bunga” parties allegedly involving underage prostitutes.
In April 2016, leaked documents known as the Panama Papers included Berlusconi and business partner Galliani on a list of wealthy individuals who had hidden assets.