Milan chief plays down talk of Berlusconi exit

Silvio Berlusconi remains committed to his AC Milan team, one of the club's directors said on Thursday, playing down speculation that the former Italian prime minister was ready to sell up.

The billionaire businessman has owned Milan since 1986 and they have been European champions five times under his leadership. Their success helped to make Berlusconi a familiar face in Italy and burnish his image as he moved into politics in the 1990s.

However, the club's fortunes have dimmed in the past couple of seasons. At the same time, Berlusconi, 76, has been distracted by political and legal problems, losing office and facing accusations he slept with an under-age prostitute.

There has been speculation that he was ready to sell the club or at least part of his stake, with chocolate company owner Michele Ferrero the latest businessman to be tipped as a possible buyer.

Milan director Umberto Gandini said talk of a sale was inevitable when much of continental Europe was suffering economically, but give it little credence.

"I think Mr Berlusconi is one of the most dedicated owners that we could have," he told the Leaders in Football conference.

"I'm pretty sure that he and his family and his holding company will continue to support us," he added.

The balance of power in European football is switching to newly-rich clubs like Paris Saint-Germain who bought Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva from Milan this summer.

PSG are bankrolled by Qatari owners and are seeking to build a team swiftly in the French capital, where they are the only major football club.

However, PSG are one of the teams who risk falling foul of new rules being introduced by UEFA to force clubs to curb their losses or face exclusion from European competition from 2014/15.

PSG Director General Jean-Claude Blanc said the club was aiming to use its monopoly in Paris to grow revenues and was committed to meeting the Financial Fair Play rules, without giving details on how it would do so.

"We are working to make sure that within 3-5 years we are at the top of the game, respecting other clubs, respecting the rules, respecting Financial Fair Play," he told the conference.

Financial Fair Play is one of the dominant issues in European club football, with teams uncertain about how aggressively UEFA will apply sanctions.

"I don't think anyone is against the principle of break even but it has to be done in an equitable way and managed well," said Liverpool Managing Director Ian Ayre.

The president of Italian champions Juventus told the conference on Wednesday that he feared UEFA would shy away from banning clubs if it risked undermining its own competitions.


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