Asia Sport

The future is bleak and lessons from Jiangsu Suning

In Europe’s top 5 national championships, no champion has experienced such a tragic situation as Inter Milan at the moment. Only 3 months after Interista joyfully welcomed the Serie A championship, the future of the team is in a state of alarm.

On May 23, the Interistas tried to fill the Giuseppe Meazza stadium both on and off the pitch to welcome the new Serie A champion in the most exciting ways. At home, Inter Milan just defeated Udinese with a score of 5-1, thereby lifting the prestigious Scudetto trophy for the 19th time, and ending Juventus’ decade-long domination.

But such short-Tay gang joy. When the fans were still feeling satisfied, the Italian media began to spread rumors about coach Antonio Conte’s departure. “It’s like falling from heaven to the ground,” said former player Dejan Stankovic when witnessing the first incident of the old team.

Exactly 3 days later, that rumor became true. After a private meeting with president Steven Zhang – who just a few days ago was still smiling, holding the championship trophy and promising a lot of things, Conte decided to leave, even though he still had a contract with Inter. The inside information is very quickly leaked to the outside. Disagreements over the future development direction of the team made Conte no longer interested in staying with the half-blue club in Milan. Conte wanted Steven Zhang to ensure he maintained the squad that made him successful in the 2020/2021 season, but the young president disagreed.

Inter Milan
When the feeling of victory was not over, the mood of the Interistas had to return to the ground. Photo: Getty Images

Specifically, Inter’s owners also want to collect at least 75 million euros in cash through the sale of players, as a way to solve financial difficulties. And yet, all first-team players are at risk of having to cut at least 15-20% of their income amid the overwhelming debt-ridden owner, Suning Group.

And Steven Zhang said he did. In early July, Archaf Hakimi was sold to Paris Saint-Germain for 60 million euros, just one year after Inter spent 40 million euros to bring him back from Real Madrid. Speaking to the media, new head coach Simone Inzaghi said: “I was informed about Hakimi in advance, but the management also told me that other important players would stay.”

However, in the end, Simone Inzaghi realized she had taken a huge trick. Because only a few weeks later, rumors about the death of the duo Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez appeared more and more in the press. And so far, the Chelsea deal to bring Lukaku back to Stamford Bridge has officially been completed with a falling price of 115 million euros. The future of Lautaro Martinez also became alarmed when both Arsenal and Tottenham were ready to pile money on the negotiating table if they were given the “green light” to recruit the Argentine striker.

And then who will be, where are the names that may have to go? Stefan de Vrij, Milan Skriniar or Nicolo Barella? With the current situation, nothing is impossible internally with Inter.

By this time it wasn’t just insiders like Simone Inzaghi who felt betrayed. Nerazzurri fans are also extremely frustrated by the dark prospect of the team’s future. Curva Nord’s ultras spread banners outside Inter headquarters with the message: “The leadership needs attention…Promises must be fulfilled”. Worse, they put a whole can of donation money for Suning right in front of the club’s headquarters instead of saying: “If you don’t have money, tell us to give it away, not sell anyone else”. The financial crisis at Inter clearly stemmed from the loss of Suning owners in the business field during the Covid-19 period.

How did Inter Milan end a decade of Juventus dominance?
Inter Milan in turn bid farewell to the two most important people, Conte and Lukaku. Photo: Getty Images

Most recently, chairman Steven Zhang was accused by a court in Hong Kong of evading a payment of $250 million, according to documents submitted on August 2, 2021. This $250 million was borrowed from Great Matrix Limited in August 2020. Specifically, Great Matrix is ​​a holding partner of Suning Group’s convenience store chain business. The Zhang family acted as guarantors for the loans, responsible for paying off’s $1.75 billion bank loan.

That debt was coerced in China, however was saved by restructuring through the sale of its 24% stake to tech giant Alibaba. The Zhang family is said to have obtained cash from the sale, but has yet to make any payments to the Great Matrix.

Jason Kang, a representative of the global dispute and investigation law firm Kobre & Kim, which advises the creditors behind the China Construction Bank (Asia) lawsuit for debt collection, said: Creditors expect to have their rights vindicated in court. They will take all necessary actions to ensure that the outstanding debt owed by the Zhangs is paid in full. “.

It looks like the only way to pay that debt would be through the Zhang family’s personal assets, possibly including Inter Milan. Not except if the Suning Group continues to face financial difficulties, the Milan team once again faces a change of hands in the future. The long-term lesson from Jiangsu is what makes those who love Inter worried.

Chinese Football
Jiangsu Suning was dissolved shortly after winning the Chinese championship. Photo: Getty Images

In early March 2021, Chinese football received a shocking news when Suning Group headed by chairman Zhang Jindong announced the dissolution of Jiangsu Suning, just 3 months after this team defeated the giant Guangzhou in the tournament. both matches to win the Chinese Super League for the first time. From the first championship in the team’s 63-year history, suddenly the name Jiangsu disappeared like a soap bubble. Remember that just 5 years ago, when Zhang Jindong bought 100% of Jiangsu’s shares, the billionaire born in 1963 promised to turn the team into a force to compete for the title.

That wasn’t an empty promise. Because from the day of changing owners, Jiangsu quickly became the 4th richest football team in China. In 2016, they broke the club’s transfer record when they spent £26 million for Chelsea midfielder Ramires. Immediately after that, a new record was set with a 32 million euro contract named Alex Teixeira from Shakhtar Donetsk. They also paid a super salary for former England coach Fabio Capello. And in 2019, they tried to negotiate with Real Madrid to bring back the Nanjing Olympic Stadium superstar Gareth Bale.

But the Covid-19 pandemic has severely affected the Chinese economy and Suning Group is no exception. In addition to the immaturity and lack of experience in the field of football, Jiangsu owners have pushed the club to the brink of destruction. That once again makes people fed up with the Chinese way of making football “smash”.

Inter Milan's chaotic summer
The owners of Inter Milan are accused of avoiding payment of huge debts. Photo: Getty Images

Not only Jiangsu, Shandong Luneng, the champion of the Chinese National Cup, was threatened with disqualification from participating in this tournament because of unpaid salary debts when overdue. Tianjin Tigers, there were also times when the staff went on strike because…nearly a year of not paying the player’s salary.

Will Inter follow in Jiangsu’s footsteps? The answer is not possible! But when the owners are facing increasingly financial difficulties, it is difficult for Simone Inzaghi’s army to have additional budget to recruit new recruits. They have just lost a full-back who possesses the most impressive attack ability in Serie A, and also lost their main goalscorer in the last 2 seasons. As the new season begins, they only have two direct additions to their recent departures, Denzel Dumfries and Edin Dzeko.

The Zhang family came and planted every lawn on the Giuseppe Meazza stadium so much hope for an Inter revival in both the domestic arena and the European arena. There were times when Interista clearly felt the taste of success. But now, the haunts of the post-Massimo Moratti era are flooding in once again. I don’t know when the green half of Milan will have an owner who has both a heart and a vision?

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