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Inter’s Comeback Plan and Beppe Marotta

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The plan of Suning is clear, and it looks at Juventus and Europe

Lega Serie A Unveils 2018/19 Fixture Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

The Derby d’Italia has always been the label of Inter Milan - Juventus, not only on the pitch, but also outside of it. And from what we have seen in the last 10 years and more, the label has been pretty appropriate.

Not only these are indeed two of the most successful representatives of the Italian Football, but the recent dramatic history of corruption has added rage and a romantic sense of revenge to this game, that is nowadays one of the most felt by both fans.

So much, that fans have even been able to block transfers from one side to the other, because there wasn’t space for business between these two clubs. During the transfer window of January 2014, representatives of Inter and Juventus are sitting down at a table and start discussing about a shocking transfer: Guarin in exchange for Vucinic. Business-wise, at least to the two managements, this seems a very reasonable transfer, but the newly appointed President of Inter, Erick Thohir, has no idea yet to what level the atmosphere between the two clubs can get to.

Eventually, a demonstration of the Inter Milan fans under the Headquarter of the Club made Thohir decide to not take any risks, and the transfer was said to be interrupted for this reason. Four years later, another shocking transfer between the two teams is said to be already agreed upon: Marotta, former CEO of Juventus, leaves the Agnelli family after 8 years and shortly after flies to Peking to meet what will most probably be his new employer: the Suning Group, major owner of Inter Milan. Again, as back in 2014, there’s a small turmoil among the Inter fans, especially on the web, but this time there was no chance that the transfer would have been reversed.

On Thursday morning, Beppe Marotta was announced as the new CEO, responsible for the sport area. No turmoil was raised, and just a few were shocked by the move, because as not romantic as it might sound, the two clubs share now a pattern and even have some common goals, far from being the two souls of a derby to conquer the kingdom of the Italian Football. But, how did we get to this point?

Prologue

To understand what is happening and what changed, we have to go back to May 2010, a month more than 8 years away from us, but destined to set the first stone to a development path that has brought us where we are right now. In that month, the two Italian clubs are at a completely different stage of their lives. Inter Milan is at the peak of its glory, about to take the last and most wanted piece of their triumphant ride from 2006: the Champion’s League in Madrid.

On the other hand, Juventus is about to appoint Beppe Marotta as new CEO, with a long term business plan to be developed next to the newly elected young chairman, Andrea Agnelli. The rest is history: Inter Milan’s management, led by the single Leader Massimo Moratti, fails to restructure and ends up dragging a team of excellent players that have given anything, until they end up leaving for way less they were worth that night after the Madrid’s final. The failure to restructure the team at the end of the cycle is a crucial part of this story. Massimo Moratti was always labelled as a President-Fan, incapable to think in a business-oriented framework because too attached to the colours of his team, at least this was how he was drawn by media.

As a matter of fact, Inter was still one of the few big clubs of Europe to still have a family-led society, with a traditional structure and no clear business plan for the future. So the cycle ended in the worst way, leaving Inter out of International Competitions for 6 years, the hands tied by the Financial Fair Play settlement, a new management with unexpectedly unclear ideas, and 6 Managers succeeding with no continuity on the bench. On the other hand, Juventus started its path that went from the new stadium, to the 7 championships in a row, the total domain in Italy, the rising competitivity in Europe and finally the purchase of what is believed to be the best player in the world: Cristiano Ronaldo. However, the purchase that signed the definitive comeback of Juventus on the international stage of the most powerful clubs, also signed the completion of a cycle: the one of Beppe Marotta, who was said to be against the purchase itself. The cycle was indeed completed, and Andrea Agnelli has now become a very young and established President, ready to play a political role and to keep increasing the revenue and fame of the brand.

Fame, brand, budget, revenue, these are words typical of the business world and that used to be totally unfamiliar to the football world until some years ago. Not in the Premier League that is already advanced from that point of view, but definitely in Italy, where a family-led team, Inter Milan, kept falling behind, incapable to find a structure, until the entrance of Suning.

Suning is a major character of our story: a strong and well-established Chinese business led by a self-made Billionaire, Zhang Jidong, and his son, Zhang Kangyang. The entrepreneurs have already a plan for Inter: exploiting the brand by exporting it and increasing its fame, increasing the revenue, tackle the increasingly interesting and interested exotic markets: China, the Middle-East, the United States.

To put it simply: with the entrance of Suning, now majority owner, Inter Milan is now following the model of Juventus, the European model. Fame, brand, budget and revenue are now keywords also among the Nerazzurri, which is not anymore the dream of a passionate man, but a more and more structured business. It’s a major turning point and, although it’s probably early to say, the results seem to start showing, not only on the pitch, where Inter Milan finally managed to participate to the Champion’s League once again after six seasons without it, but especially out of it: this year Inter Milan gathered almost €40 million more from sponsors only in China.

Today, Inter is the only Italian club that can aim to compete with Juventus when it comes to influence, branding and especially revenue. And Suning does aim at competing on the same level with Juventus.

That’s how our story brings us to today.

Who is Beppe Marotta?

Marotta is a very experienced and well-established CEO with 30 years experience. He is the man behind the Juventus model and its rise on the international stage, he’s the shadow of the talented young Chairman Andrea Agnelli, and he’s said to be one of the main actors of his development and of course of the development of Juventus itself, that is now back in the Olympus of football.

Why Inter Milan?

Where is Inter Milan now? It is starting a new cycle, with a structured business and management, a young chairman (Zhang Kangyang is 26 years old!), a plan to restructure the Stadium together with AC Milan, and a long-term plan to be back in the Olympus of football at European level and to compete with Juventus at national level. €114 million is still the difference in revenue between the two teams and a big step to fill the gap in the plan is the stadium: last year the Allianz Stadium brought a revenue of €43.7 million to Juventus, against the €25.7 million EUR of Inter Milan (16th place in Europe).

Zhang Kangyang (26), Chairman of Inter Milan, prior to the match between FC Torino and FC Internazionale
Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

Given the above picture, Beppe Marotta seems to be the perfect man at the moment for Inter Milan. Marotta will come to Milan with three main goals: new stadium, brand development and bring Inter Milan again to the center of the European football.

How will this happen? Definitely not by spending each year millions in top players, that is not the model that is being followed (just look at Juventus before Ronaldo). The model is to wisely buy among the biggest opportunities in the European football, among the young talents and sometimes also among the discarded talents (Pirlo, Tevez anybody?)

Marotta is the man behind the transfer of Pirlo for free, one of the best midfielders of the last 20 years. He is also the man of the purchase of Pogba for free, Tevez for around €9 million, and more. What to expect then from him in Inter? First of all, to bring his network to the table, the one he has built in 30 years of experience. Marotta knows the men behind the player’s agents, he knows who to contact and when to ask for favours, he knows who to call and who to not, he’s a navigated man, a “political animal” of the Italian football we could say. And that’s what Inter Milan is expecting from him, to help Zhang Kangyang mature and develop Inter Milan towards the Juventus model.

Marotta is also the man behind the selling of Pogba for around €100 million to its original owner, so among the things to not expect from him there should be the hope to see the purchase of €100 million worth players, while he might actually aim for big sellings to valorise the club’s roster.

Is it a good move from Inter Milan?

Difficult to say, but what is clear is that it is a transfer that makes completely sense, and is integral to the development launched by Suning almost two years ago and fans that will be reading it in the same framework of the Guarin-Vucinic exchange might have been left behind, to another model that Inter is not willing to follow anymore. It might hurt the romanticism, but who follows Inter Milan for years knows how the lack of a plan and of a structure have been hurting the club and the team even more. Inter Milan is now ready to come back, and it has a plan this time.


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