“No new partners. I already have the Moratti family and Soetedjo”

MILAN – In the third and final part of the press conference with Erick Thohir, the president spoke on Italian football and the Lega, while denying rumours that Inter are looking for further partners. 
Italian football 
"When we came here as partners, with Mr. Moratti and myself and also Mr. Soetedjo, we agreed as the management that this is a transition period. For us the next two to three years are important for sustaining the stability of the club. Of course when people ask me about the final of the Champions League in 2016, we’re looking forward to it. But again, it all depends on the process over the next two years. And I believe when we build the team, especially on the football side, that the teamwork, the focus and the fighting spirit are more important that just collecting stars. Of course, to have the stars is good. That’s why we need to be in good shape economically to buy the stars."

"It’s impossible for an Italian team to buy a player like Bale, because many of them are not in that position anymore. If you go back 10 years it’s there. So this is a process not only for Inter, but many Italian teams are looking forward to having this strategy. Of course we’re only one of the clubs in the Serie A. It’s important for the Serie A to change, and also very important to compete. That’s why we had dinner last night with Infront, and one of the things to discuss because of the deal – and Angelomario [Moratti] was there – is the plan for the future. And Infront is an advisor for the Serie A, and it’s important for Infront to understand my vision. And what I learned from Infront last night, which was a surprise for me, is that there are two big markets for the Serie A at this moment: the Middle East and South America, but not Europe. Because in Europe the Serie A is no longer one of the top leagues. Then the question is: how do you penetrate the market and compete with the other leagues? Inter have a strategy, but Inter are just one part of the Serie A. The Serie A also needs to compete." 

An 18-team Serie A and 2nd teams
"Every country has different methods of running their league. I don’t know what the best one is for Italy, and I don’t think it’s right to judge the decisions. It’s important for the Serie A and other clubs to discuss what is best for the Serie A. I’m new and I’m only one of the owners of the clubs. So I think that’s something the Serie A needs to discuss with the clubs. In terms of the second team, I think it’s good. But again, it depends on the strategy. For example, in Major League Soccer they work with other smaller clubs. They become partners in the clubs. But here I know we can’t do that.

"It’s important to have that partnership or the second team – I don’t know how they create things – for the young players. Because if you look at the opportunities for young players in the Serie A they aren’t that great compared to many leagues. It doesn’t mean there are no young players. Italy is one of the countries that continues to produce players. So if it helps the players to grow then why not?"

No new partners
"I already have partners: Mr. Moratti and his family and Mr. Soetedjo. The media keeps writing that I’m looking for partners, but I don’t know where this information is coming from. They ask me about Peter Lim, Barki… But we’re here. We are the true partners, we are the ones developing the team. Peter Lim is my friend and he’s a good person. As far as him buying another club, I can’t comment on that. But as a friend I support him.

"The Barki family has a team in Australia and also in Belgium. His support is good. Other friends of myself and Soetedjo, Tony Fernandes owns Queens Park Rangers and Vincent Tan owns Cardiff, and that’s good. But when the media keeps asking about new partners it becomes annoying to us because it’s not true. And it’s also not good when we have such a good relationship for a question mark to suddenly come up. If it’s true that’s one thing, but if it’s not true then I can’t comment at all. When the media asks me I just say, ‘No comment’, because in the end I don’t want to send the wrong message to my friends. Maybe they think, ‘Oh, you don’t like me!’ [laughing]. So I meet with them not for this reason but for other discussions. When they ask me about Inter I tell them I can share.

Because it’s good for me when I meet with Ruben [Emir Gnanalingam, an owner of Queens Park Rangers], for example, of QPR. Because they were strong in the first season and spending a lot of money, but then they were relegated to the Championship. I need to understand what goes on as a friend, and I support him. But we don’t want that to happen here. Because you know Inter’s history and we’ve never been relegated. This is a strong club. But to learn from other friends who are in this business is important.

"That’s why when I met with the Real Madrid president and CEO I asked a lot of questions. For me it was an opportunity to learn about the club. And I found out that the location of those four buildings there used to be the training ground. Then they moved to an area of 120 hectares and I went there to see all the facilities, and I learned a lot. When we discussed the players they told me they’re spending less than 50% of their revenues on them, but their revenue is 500 million.

"So this is a good process for me to learn, because what you see in the United States, Indonesia, Italy or the English Premier League is not all 100% the same. But it’s a good process to learn. It’s why I push my management team to learn and improve, because the competition keeps getting stronger."

Differences with past strategies
"We have a business plan and new structures. The banks and partners who look at these structures are prudent, so they believe in the concepts. The global financial institutions believe because they know about the safety of the income, the club’s cash flow, the budgeting. So they believe in the project. The difference then is that before we managed every year. Now it’s become five years. So when you do 5-year planning it’s easier. And for all the management it’s easier to achieve the strategy, you have time to grow and create time for planning so the club can be more sustainable.

"It’s different than what you see with Roma and James Pallotta because Roma were already owned in part by the banks. It’s totally different. Maybe the structures they have aren’t the same, but we’re using a model like most of the clubs, or the new clubs, around the world."