Can AC Milan Survive as a Major Club?

It was just a friendly…

After watching Real Madrid dismantle Milan for 90 minutes last night, that’s pretty much the only thing a Milan fan can say. Last night’s game at Yankee Stadium marked the end of the latest World Football Challenge, and some of Europe’s best teams will now head back to their respective countries for the 2012-2013 season. For Real Madrid, they will head back to Spain confident that they will breeze through another La Liga season (except for 2 games). On the other side, Milan will head back to Italy as a wounded, vulnerable team that is in danger of losing its place in the Champions League.

AC Milan is on the decline. And the worst part is, everybody in Europe knows it…including Milan. In July, Milan was forced to sell its two best players, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva. The sale outraged many Milan fans, until they heard Berlusconi simply tell them the truth.

“The economic situation no longer allows for the shopping sprees of the early 90’s” he explained.

Statements like this are a death knell in today’s European game, where the balance sheet of a club is almost just as important as the lineup sheet. Milan’s current lineup sheet is full of question marks, now that prolific names like Nesta, Gattuso, Seedorf, and Inzaghi have past their primes and moved on. For the ‘new money’ clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City, this would mean that it’s time to reload. But Milan simply can’t, and Ibrahimovic let this be known at the end of the season, saying “Milan’s problem is economic. There is no money to buy five players, or even the ones we need.”

In fairness to Milan, many Italian teams are holding a significant amount of debt. But over the last 5 years, Milan increased player salaries from 138 million pounds to 206 million pounds. Over the same time period, revenue decreased by 3 million pounds. This led to the sale of Silva and Ibrahimovic, and also the 5-1 drubbing that Milan took against the star-studded Real Madrid team last night.

But it was just a friendly…wasn’t it? Let’s hope so.