Zhang keeps Inter: forward with Oaktree for a new cycle and returns to Milan in April..

The president is working to extend the loan with the American fund and is thinking about returning to Milan. The 2025 Club World Cup pushes him to stay in the saddle and he wants the team to tour China in a few months

Filippo Conticello

Inter’s present is today’s trip to Salento, followed by Wednesday’s recovery at San Siro against Atalanta which will finally remove the asterisk from the rankings: further steps towards the number two star, waiting to risk his life in the Champions League with Cholo. The future, however, and not just the short-term one, is written directly by Steven Zhang on Chinese headed paper: for months now the president has been discussing with his managers in Milan on a medium-long horizon. Both the projects relating to the sporting area and those on the corporate side look at least to the entire next season, the most strategic of this recent era (and also the most grueling: a total of 71 matches could be played). Between June and July 2025, waiting for the Nerazzurri who have already qualified is the Club World Cup in the United States: around fifty million are at stake, as well as a polish to the brand seen worldwide. Translated in light of the next set targets: Zhang intends to “keep” Inter for all intents and purposes at least until that moment, perhaps beyond, and has now almost definitively removed the specter of a “forced” transfer. It could have been feared given that the terms for repayment of the maxi-loan received three years ago from Oaktree expire on May 20, but Steven has now avoided that risk by decisively taking the path of “reexpiring” the terms. In the corridors of Viale della Liberazione in recent days, the presence of both some members of the board of the American fund, which provided the financing in 2021, and other top managers of Goldman Sachs, one of the two “advisors” together, has not gone unnoticed. to Raine Group in charge of looking for new partners for Suning. First they enjoyed Arnautovic’s goal against Atletico directly from the red seats of San Siro and then they took advantage of the trip to Milan to talk about accounts. At stake are over 350 million (275 plus interest) to be repaid on the basis of a loan which, as collateral, had the pledge of the club’s shares.


Given that the one billion two hundred million minimum valuation has so far held back potential buyers, continuing with the financing is the preferred route. Doing it with the same institution would also give more peace of mind in terms of timing because the legal structure already exists: the expiry date must be changed (the last one was three years, it is possible to go down by one) plus the interest rate, which will probably increase slightly compared to the current already high 12%. However, Oaktree-bis is not being born by chance, but is also the result of the work of recent years to right the boat: it had taken on water dangerously during and immediately after the Covid crisis, now it sails in much calmer waters. The US fund has, in fact, appreciated the new ability to combine results and sustainability, as well as the reduction in the amount of wages and the increase in turnover: in the season of the Champions League final it stood at 425 million, +60 in net revenues of player trading. Precisely on this ground, an addition will arrive with the agreement on Zhang’s table for the shirt sponsor: goodbye Paramount +, which has brought low figures (just 11.5) for this 2023-24. Indeed, with the aim of growing and approaching the 30 million that Emirates guarantees to its Milan cousins, negotiations are still ongoing with a couple of airline companies based in the Middle East: not only Qatar Airways, but also Riyadh Air, the of the Saudi flag which will only fly in 2025 (it is already a sponsor of Atletico). Not enough, Betsson Group, a Swedish betting giant which has StarCasino among its leading brands, also climbed positions. If this latest negotiation prevailed, the writing StarCasinò.Sport, a sports “entertainment” brand, would still end up on the shirts: a way to “get around” the Dignity Decree, which prevents betting sponsorships in football, but a final ok would still be needed of the AgCom.


What matters most, however, is still the field on which Inzaghi, recipient of presidential text messages, governs, as do other iconic players. The concept of sporting performance, to be maintained at this level of excellence, was reiterated by Zhang himself once again in a video conference in the last week: “cycle” is an Italian word that he now likes almost as much as “stability” and “stadium” (mayor Sala is waiting at the gate, while we move forward with the Rozzano-Assago project). And precisely to further expand the board, continuity was given to the management: from the CEO Beppe Marotta to sporting director Piero Ausilio, everyone has extended until 2027. Zhang hasn’t seen them face to face since the summer, but now he seems to have decided to finally book the return trip: the idea is to be in Milan in April, after the national team break and, perhaps, before a Champions League quarter-final that everyone craves. In any case, the second star would like to celebrate it in person at San Siro. Next summer, however, the journey could take the opposite direction, from Italy towards China. Suning ownership is pushing for a “summer tour” in the People’s Republic and only the final green light is missing. The tour would be between the end of July and the beginning of August, and never mind if, due to the European Championship, some big names might be missing: the Zhangs still want a ride from Nanjing. Another way to reiterate that Inter is (and remains) theirs.