The eyes of the world will be on the San Siro over the next week.
The Champions League semi-final between AC Milan and Inter Milan brings attention back to a city that was used to being the center of attention in European football.
However, despite sharing 10 European Cup victories – AC Milan’s seven successes are second only to Real Madrid in the all-time list – none have reached the semi-finals of any European competition. since 2010.
Two decades have passed since they met in the semi-finals of the Champions League, when Andriy Shevchenko’s away goal proved decisive for ACwho then beat Juventus on penalties at Old Trafford in the final.
The tie will allow iconic shots of a stadium – Stadio Giuseppe Meazza to give it the apt name – known worldwide for its distinctive red beams, which was originally opened in 1926 and recently modernized for the World Cup 1990.
From the outside, the structure is impressive. But inside, it’s a relic. Neither club sees a future there but, as BBC Sport points out, getting out is proving problematic.
The plans for the cathedral stop
Inter started talking about the possibility of leaving San Siro eight years ago. Four years ago, they teamed up with AC Milan to determine that it was something that had to happen.
Structurally, the current stadium would be expensive to renovate. Aesthetically, the costs would skyrocket. Many seats remain from the 1990 upgrade. Sanitary facilities are basic. Both clubs are watching with envy how English clubs can increase their income through their corporate facilities.
In 2022, the Deloitte Money League showed Inter generated €44m (£38.48m) in matchday revenue. AC Milan generated €32m (£27.99m). On the other hand, Tottenham, in its new stadium, generated €125m (£109.3m).
Part of that disparity was due to Covid regulations lasting longer in Italy, but nonetheless, no Milan club can come close to matching Tottenham’s matchday revenue with the stadium set up as it is.
The clubs came up with a solution.
After launching a global tender, renowned stadium designers Populous proposed the chosen model. Nicknamed “the cathedral”, a brand new stadium was to be built on land less than 1 km from the current structure.
Announcing the plans in December 2021, the two clubs said the area around it would be “dedicated to sport and recreation”, include 110,000m² of green space and be the world’s first “zero carbon arena”. .
The stadium’s capacity would be 65,000, 10,000 less than the San Siro. The plan was to present the final proposals at the end of 2022.
But the project is stalled. Protests, appeals and objections brought him to a standstill. Neither club was willing to invest anything to move the project forward without any guarantees that it would eventually be allowed to be built.
Last September, the municipality opened a public debate on the stadium which lasted until November. They then informed the clubs that changes needed to be made to their initial proposals.
At that time, Inter and AC were starting to look for alternatives.
Inter are studying a site in Assago, a small town south of Milan. AC is evaluating several options, at San Donato and Sesto San Giovanni, both on the outskirts of Milan, and La Maura, site of the racecourse close to San Siro.
However, there are issues with all three options. Environmental concerns can sabotage the latter.
Questions have also been raised over funding for standalone projects, although Inter are adamant they have access to funding and AC Milan’s US owners Red Bird have pledged to follow through. to the belief of Elliott Investment’s predecessors that a new stadium is essential for the club to keep pace. other European heavyweights.
What happens now?
Inter and AC Milan have shared Guiseppe Meazza since 1947. Obviously, there are pros and cons to this situation. This helps to share the costs but means that parts of the stadium have to be changed to represent the colors of the club that actually plays.
Being free from these restrictions by going it alone is appealing. However, it is also expensive.
Moreover, since the municipality also has a large contribution, it is impossible to make lucrative naming rights deals.
But only four Serie A clubs – Juventus, Atalanta, Udinese and Sassuolo – play on their ‘home’ ground and it seems the Milan duo would prefer to stay together in the San Siro area if possible.
Last month, Mayor Beppe Sala gave them 90 days to declare whether or not they would make the requested changes to the cathedral.
It is recognized that the initial plans will need to be changed significantly, but clubs have already requested an extension as they feel they have not had sufficient time to both assess the practicalities of the changes they are being asked to make and determine viability. variants.
The issues for all parties are complex. Two of Europe’s biggest clubs are in need of a new stadium, local politicians know the pair’s exit would be a blow to the region’s prestige and cost vital income. Discussions are continuing and no resolution is in sight.
In the meantime, the San Siro remains as it has been since 1990. Striking on the outside, a concrete carcass below.