By Gaia Brunelli
Despite their public proclamations to the contrary, AC Milan privately remain open to offloading star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic to offset the club's financial problems, Goal.com understands.
Rossoneri CEO Adriano Galliani claimed on Monday that the Sweden international is "100 per cent" staying at San Siro but, as the player's agent Mino Raiola explained earlier in the day, there can be no guarantee that the 30-year-old will still be a Milan player come the close of the transfer window.
Indeed, the club's economic difficulties have not gone away. If anything, they have been exacerbated by the collapse of Thiago Silva's move to Paris Saint-Germain.
Milan had hoped to wipe out a significant chunk of last year's losses of €63.7 million by selling the Brazil defender to the Qatari-owned Ligue 1 outfit for €46m, with owner Silvio Berlusconi admitting that he was not in a position to turn down such a bid because of the club's financial situation.
However, the former Italian Prime Minister did not envisage such a fan backlash to the news of the player's proposed move to the Parc des Princes and ultimately decided to not only resist PSG's overtures, but reward Thiago Silva with a lucrative new contract.
Consequently, Milan's need to sell one of their most prized assets is now greater than ever. The Diavolo's preference would be to cash in on either Robinho or Antonio Cassano.
The former has plenty of admirers in Brazil, with Santos particularly keen to bring the player back to the Vila Belmiro. However, there is considerable doubt over whether the Club World Cup runners-up have the necessary funds to make the deal happen.
Cassano, meanwhile, has been linked with a return to Sampdoria, and Milan believe that they can make a tidy profit on a player who arrived on a free transfer from the Blucerchiati last January, particularly in light of his performances for Italy at Euro 2012.
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However, the Rossoneri are acutely aware of the fact that Ibrahimovic is their most saleable commodity. The Swede also shone in Ukraine this summer and is coming off the back of the most productive league campaign of his stellar career to date, netting 28 times in Serie A.
Selling Ibrahimovic would ease the strain on the club's wage bill, given he is currently on €12m per year, while there is also a realisation that, with the player set to turn 31 this October, his value will have decreased dramatically by this time next year.
The problem is that Ibrahimovic's age and salary demands will prove prohibitive in terms of attracting potential buyers. However, there has been speculation that Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho has been in regular contact with his former Inter charge via text in recent weeks.
Los Blancos have yet to formally express their interest in Ibrahimovic but Milan would welcome any approach, not least because they would be keen on including midfielder Lassana Diarra in any transfer.
Such an outcome would be ideal for Milan, who feel that there would not be anywhere near the same discontent among the fans should Ibrahimovic be moved on in order to balance the books, particularly if the funds raised are put towards signing an up-and-coming young striker such as Mattia Destro.