They are the people who make all the final decisions, from transfer policy to stadium redevelopment. Some have a genuine long-term affection for the club; others want to make a quick buck. Some are adored by fans, others despised. Some are crazy, others are not. But into which categories do Serie A’s money men fall?The most famous ‘family’ club in Italy is probably Inter Milan, who have been previously owned by oil tycoon Angelo Moratti, from 1955-68. Since 1995, they have mainly been under the leadership of his son, Massimo.
An unassuming man, Moratti does all he can for the club, saying “I am convinced that every action I take is for the good of Inter”, and has provided a massive transfer kitty for a huge selection of footballing masters: Vieri €38.8m, Ibrahimovic €28.8m, Ronaldo €21.83m, Toldo €21.83m, Crespo €20m – the list really does go on. However, the failure for a very long time to win either a Champions League or Scudetto, with what were probably the best strikers in the world, made Moratti unpopular with the Nerazzurri fans, and in particular the more radical Ultras.
Even going through 12 coaches in the space of nine years only brought about a solitary UEFA Cup success, and after a campaign by the Ultras, Moratti resigned in January 2004. He was to be replaced for two years by Giacinto Facchetti, an Inter legend from the Grande Inter era.
His return upon Facchetti’s death has seen Moratti get what he surely deserved: the Scudetto. The repercussions of Calciopoli meant that the 2005-06 Serie A title was awarded to Roberto Mancini’s men, and they haven’t stopped coming since. Moratti’s affection for the club has been the sole decision making factor under his presidency, and with his two children on the board of directors, Inter look set to stay in the family.
No account on club owners can fail to mention Silvio Berlusconi, owner of AC Milan since 1986. His ‘Media monopoly’ is a source for debate, but his position as Italy’s richest man is not. Berlusconi may not have sold any of his three Mediaset free-to-air television channels or his publishing company upon becoming Prime Minister of Italy, as he sees no need to, but he has ironically resigned as President of Milan due to the conflict of interests, and he is replaced by long-time friend Adriano Galliani.
As owner, he is a constant source of confusion for a significant portion of Milanisti. As leader of a centre-right political party, Popolo della Liberta, (People of Freedom), in coalition with a North Italian separatist, anti-south, anti-immigration party Lega Nord (Northern League), and Prime Minister of the country, it is understandable that some fans have a political or ideological cross to bear against Berlusconi.
However, if that same man ploughs money into the club to make it great, like he did in the 1980s in particular, wins Champions Leagues and Scudetti, and currently supplies you with the sublime talents of Kaka, Maldini, Nesta and Pirlo amongst others, it is an issue that can be brushed under the carpet for most.
Every major league has their share of trigger-happy club owners, but Serie A has more than most. When it comes to changing the coach 28 times in 17 years, (that’s an average spell of around 6 months), then I think Cagliari President Massimo Cellino deserves a mention here. Since becoming Chairman in 1991, Cellino is the epitome of the hot-headed, power mad owner who is never satisfied.
Spare a thought for Davide Ballardini. He became boss of Cagliari, for the second time, in December 2007, with the Rossoblu anchored to the foot of the table. The inexperienced coach from Ravenna then managed to lead his team to 32 points in the second half of the campaign, climbing to the dizzy heights of 14th by the season end. Had he proved himself to be the man Cellino had been looking for all this time?
Unfortunately not: On May 27, their lack of a contractual agreement meant that they ‘parted company’. The new boss, or latest managerial victim, will be the even less experienced Massimiliano Allegri, who just won promotion from Serie C1 with Sassuolo.
Another man with a penchant for firing coaches is Palermo’s Maurizio Zamparini. Coach for the first half of last season Francesco Guidolin famously said “By now, Zamparini's words enter my head in one ear and go out the other," as the club owner continued to be critical of his coach.
Not averse to causing controversy, he has racially attacked Romanians after an incident involving Adrian Mutu, claimed he wanted to sign Del Piero, before pointing out that the club could never afford it, and promised on many occasions to sell the club due to being exasperated with the whole experience. Disappointed with the clubs league form, he has even rooted for the other team: “I hope West Ham knocks us out of the UEFA Cup, otherwise I am sure we will lose again on Sunday against Chievo. This team cannot compete in two different tournaments and I honestly could not care less about the UEFA Cup”.
Finally, amongst the Palermo faithful, he is the man who allowed Luca Toni to join Fiorentina for just £7 million, something that they rue more every season as Il Bomber goes from strength to strength. Then more recently, he sold current stars, Amauri, Barzagli, Zaccardo and Rinaudo. Although this season sees the arrival of Marco Amelia and Fabio Liverani, the decision to cash-in on so many important players, and the lack of enough quality replacements will surely back-fire for Zamparini.
The world of club presidents, owners and chairmen in Serie A make for a hugely colourful and varied environment, especially for the neutrals. If you’re a coach on the other hand, job security is something of a luxury, and if you’re a fan, its pot luck as to whether you end up with a crazed despot, a free-spending club fanatic, or anything in between.