Inter vs. Milan. The match known as “Derbi della Madoninna“, (or, if you want to stick more to the actual reality, “Derbi della MadoChina“, as you can read in some angry Italian tweets) became yesterday the first confrontation between the old Italian giants in the “new football” era. With the Chinese owners sitting on the stands, and with a repeat of the goal-line technology to define the last goal. We had a warning of a future that is not too far away.
The Giuseppe Meazza stadium is a beautiful cement block from the time of its foundation in 1926, and especially since its last two major renovations (1990, for the World Cup, and 2008). There, in the Via Piccolomini and in the other streets nearby, you can see all the rites of the fans of the two giants of the city happen. Both are local there. Except for one day in the whole season: the Madonnina’s derbi (name given in honor of one of the emblems of the city, the statue of the Madonnina, located at the top of the Milan Cathedral). Inter – the nerazzurri – vs. Milan – the rossoneri – is the most traditional duel in the history of Calcio.
This week’s edition was number 218 of this great event. But this wasn’t just another derby. It had a detail that made it very different: with the confirmation of the sale of Milan to the Chinese investment group Rossoneri Sport Investment Lux in exchange for 740 million euros for 99.93% of the institution that for 31 years was commanded by Silvio Berlusconi – through his corporation Fininvest – the match will be a duel made in China. It just so happens that Inter also belongs (roughly 70% of Inter, anyway) to the Chinese group Suning Commerce Group and 30% to the Indonesian businessman Erick Thohir.
—Julio, can we skip the history-talk and go straight to the part when you actually talk about the match?
Yeah, yeah, we’re getting there.
So, inside of the Giuseppe Meazza, the atmosphere was different from other years: the teams no longer fought for the Serie A crown, but to gain positions in the league table that allow them to finish for the Europa League. A devalued derby that had a miracle: the Colombian Cristian Zapata was the ‘savior’ on this Saturday for Milan. The defender scored the final goal of the game in stoppage time of stoppage time, mirroring the goal scored by Perisic in the reverse fixture.
The match at Giuseppe Meazza’s was one of emotions. Milan began the derby with great aggressiveness and brushed the goal three times in the first 15 minutes of play, led by Deulofeu and Suso’s speed in the two wings.
The Rossoneri had a double chance at the start of the game: Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic made a great intervention after a Deulofeu attempt, and Bacca missed another opportunity, kicking the rebound high. The former Barcelona player was Inter’s nightmare, creating danger with continuity and close to giving his team the lead at minute 14, when his shot hit the post, and at 34′, when he crashed against Handanovic after a great personal solo.
The mistakes of Milan ended up being punished by Inter, who took their first two chances of the match by scoring two goals and went to the break ahead by 2-0. Candreva finished the first goal after receiving a beautiful pass by Roberto Gagliardini, while Icardi extended himself on the edge of the six yard box finishing a pass made by the Croatian Ivan Perisic.
Milan, who had dominated the duel, took a few minutes to react, but after another great save from Handanovic against Deulofeu managed to split the defence thanks to Romagnoli, who pushed the goal after a big pass by Suso at 83′.
The Rossoneri ended the game with five offensive players, with Argentinians Lucas Ocampos and Gianluca Lapadula joining the attack.
The controversy settled in the last play that allowed Milan to tie the game, since the referee had added 5 minutes of extra time, but let play go on until 2 minutes after that 5; moment in which the decisive corner happened: precisely at 90+7′, Cristian Zapata appeared to score the final goal to settle the score at 2-2. The Colombian midfielder finished with his left leg to defeat Handanovic. Medel kicked the ball out, but it had already crossed the line of goal. The goal line technology had confirmed the goal of Zapata.
Regardless to say, Inter players protested, but the technology is fulminating in these cases.
Perhaps in a few years technology will dominate any controversial decision of a match. In the same way that perhaps the power of the Chinese economy might have eaten all the football of the Old Continent.
Anyway, it is clear that these are different times. China: the Asian giant, most populous country in the world, second in PBI; also wants to show itself to the world through football. They live it as a business, but also as a window to show themselves to the world. This is a growing phenomenon: the Chinese come to the world of football through state or mixed companies, buying clubs or portions of clubs in the major leagues. They stepped into the Spanish League (Atlético de Madrid, Espanyol, Granada), England (Aston Villa), France (Sochaux), Holland (ADO Den Haag) and even the Czech Republic (Slavia Praha). From different areas, they diversified and jumped to football: technology and heavy industry to toy shops. It is the new temptation. Not only indoors. Also in corners of the world.
China wants to be the central protagonist in the most popular of sports. Its strong link with FIFA’s new leadership (with Gianni Infantino as its main strategic partner and with Diego Maradona as ambassador) is another leg in this quest. The growth of local competition, too. There is one fact that needs no further explanation: with an investment of 412 million dollars the Chinese Super League became – for the second consecutive year – the one which invested the most money in reinvesting its teams.
Gaining a foothold in the big leagues is an economic project, of course. But also a sporting and advertising one. Therefore, this is no coincidence: in the land of Calcio, now, two of the largest teams in Europe (there are ten Champions League between both) belong mainly to Chinese capital. The Meazza – territory of so many stories of sports magic – is the scene of the building of a gigantic new structure: the Great Wall of Billions.
Well, I guess I ended up talking about history again, didn’t I?