Saudi Arabia has not abandoned its plan to purchase a top-flight football club despite its recent set-back with Newcastle United and is now said to be eyeing a move for one of the giants of Italian football.
Italian media are reporting that Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) – among the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world with total estimated assets of at least $500 billion – is ready to call time on its attempts to buy the English Premier League Club and instead focus on a takeover of Inter Milan.
Desperate in securing a prominent position in the European football market, Riyadh is said to be looking to complete a flagship deal with the purchase of Inter Milan. Two of its Gulf neighbours, the UAE and Qatar have been in the footballing business for over a decade through their purchase of Manchester City and PSG respectively.
Under Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman, Saudi Arabia has embarked on a similar economic development strategy which includes multi-billion-dollar investments in sports. Critics however insist that another reason Gulf states get involved in sports is to whitewash their poor human rights records.
Inter Milan's current owners, the China-based Suning group, are looking to sell at least half of their shares in the club. Apparently, they are experiencing significant financial difficulties since completing their own purchase of a controlling interest in the club from Indonesian businessman Erick Thohir in 2016.
Inter is reportedly losing around $14 million a month, and even though they raised around $152 million in transfer fees in the summer, primarily through the sale of Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku and Moroccan Achraf Hakimi, the Chinese firm is looking to significantly reduce its shareholding.
Meanwhile, after the failed Saudi bid, owner of Newcastle United Mike Ashley filed an anti-competition claim against the Premier League due to its failure to make a timely decision on the approval of the proposed $447 million takeover last year.