Saudi Arabia is on the verge of acquiring Inter Milan football club for an eye watering $1 billion, according to the International Business Times (IBT). An announcement is expected in the coming days after the Kingdom's Public Investment Fund (PIF) completes the paperwork for the deal which some believe will be a "game changer" for the footballing world.
Inter Milan's financial woes are said to be the main reason behind the sale of the club. Despite winning the 2021 Serie A title, the current Chinese owners, the Suning Holdings Group, have been making huge losses. The Chinese firm owns 70 per cent share of the club.
Inter Milan continues to lose about $15 million per month, reported IBT. It was forced to sell two of its best players, Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku and Moroccan Achraf Hakimi, allowing the Chinese owners to recoup $150 million. They also let go of the team's manager, Antonio Conte, the Italian superstar who brought the national title to Inter after 11 years.
The potential Saudi acquisition of the Serie A giant, one of the most prestigious teams in the world, will mark the PIF's second major football club acquisition after Newcastle United (UK Premier League) which was completed in October 2021. At one point the deal was in danger of collapse and it looked as though the Saudis were only interested in Inter Milan. The PIF has also set its sight on French club Marseille.
With the global pandemic causing economic havoc, football clubs are becoming easy pickings for investment. With an ambitious goal to diversify the Saudi economy by 2030, Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman has ventured into major investments in sports and arts.
Critics however insist that such acquisitions are designed to obscure the kingdom's poor human rights record. Saudi Arabia has spent at least $1.5 billion on such initiatives, which activists deem is "sportswashing".