SERIE A is certainly more interesting this season, with the two Milan clubs, Napoli and Juventus all title contenders. Although the campaign, at 10 games in, is still in its infancy, it is clear that Juventus, champions for nine consecutive years, are not going to have things their own way in 2020-21. With the national team in the semi-finals of the UEFA Nations League (they meet Spain next year), things may be looking up in Italy.
However, the big football clubs are having a hard time owing to the pandemic. Inter Milan recently confirmed they lost € 102 million in 2019-20, following equally distressing reports that Roma (- € 204m), AC Milan (- € 195m) and Juventus (- € 90m) have all been hit hard.
Napoli, according to media reports, have serious problems and this is making them vulnerable to clubs circling their players. Chelsea, for example, are keen to sign Dries Mertens, Hirving Lozano and Kalidou Koulibaly. There are suggestions that Napoli’s players have not been paid for some weeks. Financial problems and Napoli are no strangers, but this is not a good time to lurch into a crisis.
Inter’s loss has come at a time when the club is enjoying a renaissance. In 2019-20, they finished runners-up in Serie A and the UEFA Europa League. This season, they have lost just once (to AC Milan) in the league but it looks as though they will be eliminated from the Champions League in the coming week. Inter have won just one of their five group games and face Shakhtar Donestsk in the San Siro in their final fixture.
Given Inter are the best supported club in Italy in terms of average attendances (almost 59,000 in 2018-19), they have been badly impacted by a lack of matchday income. On a more optimistic note, Inter and AC Milan are proceeding with the new ground scheme and have secured the interest of two US investment banks, JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs. The project will be north of € 1.25 million but will shape a more sustainable future for both clubs.
Overall, Inter’s revenues dropped by € 45 million to € 372 million. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) came to € 14.5 million and losses amounted to € 102.4 million. The pandemic and extension of football until the end of August meant that the club suffered a deferral of revenues from TV rights and sponsorship, amounting to more than € 50 million.
Inter agreed player salary postponements for July and August to ease the situation as football went into lockdown. The club’s CEO, Beppe Morotta, speaking about salaries in Serie A, said 60% of income was too high a percentage across the league. “It could lead to bankruptcy, so it is necessary to intervene to restore solidity to all,” he told the media.
Club president Steven Zhang outlined Inter’s ambitions: “In a situation of significant economic downturn, we have been able to consolidate Inter’s growth plans, which rest on the creation of a global brand and are based around an innovative business vision whose main target audience is younger generations.”
According to Brand Finance, the Inter brand is ranked 14th in world football with a valuation of € 466 million. The club estimates that the number of Inter fans around the global has increased to 428 million, the ninth biggest fanbase worldwide. KPMG Football Benchmark’s valuation report for 2020 noted that Inter’s follower audience has increased by 72% across its digital channels.
As Inter admitted, their revenues were still relatively stable compared to 2018-19 when taking into consideration deferred income: “They are proof of the efficacy of the club’s global vision and strategy.”
Despite the disappointing financials, and a busy summer spending programme, Inter may still be in the market for reinforcements and coach Antonio Conte is interested in a number of players from his old club, Chelsea. At the same time, Inter are ready to sell the sought-after central defender, Milan Skriniar, with Tottenham at the head of the queue. A Champions League exit in the group stage may accelerate that move.