AC Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi could sell the club to a group with direct links to the Chinese government in a move that would see both Milan giants come under Asian ownership, reports in Italy said Thursday.

Speculation surrounding the eventual sale of seven-time European champions AC Milan has intensified in the past year amid the club’s struggle to keep the pace in Serie A, and their recurring failure to qualify for Europe.

Filippo Inzaghi’s Milan side currently sit eighth in the Italian top flight, 14 points off the third and last Champions League qualifying spot and 29 points behind leaders Juventus.

Amid an ongoing crisis in Serie A, Berlusconi has failed to invest heavily in top players. Instead, speculation surrounding his reported desire to wash his hands of the club has increased.

The latest reports quoted Berlusconi as saying “the sale of 75 percent of the club to the Chinese has been done”. The remarks, according to Askanews, were made by Berlusconi on Tuesday night during a private event.

Gazzetta dello Sport was among several media outlets to report the story and the Italian sports daily said the 75 percent stake could sell for between 1-1.5 billion euros.

Milan are said to be among the most popular foreign clubs in China and the push for Berlusconi to sell, according to Gazzetta, has come directly from the Chinese government as they look to raise the sport’s profile in the country.

The report added that Berlusconi has demanded that his daughter Barbara, currently a joint CEO of the club along with Adriano Galliani, remains as the club’s administrator in any future deal.

Berlusconi is reported to be meeting a Chinese delegation in the coming days in Arcore, but it would not be the first time the Italian media tycoon and two-time former Prime Minister has entertained potential buyers.

Reports last month claimed Berlusconi had signed a preliminary agreement to sell 30 percent of the club to Thai businessman Bee Taechaubol at the end of May for 250 million euros.

In February, Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin, who recently bought influential Swiss sports marketing giants Infront for 1.05 billion euros ($1.2 billion) as well as a 20 percent stake in defending Spanish champions Atletico Madrid, had entered the fray as a possible investor.

Berlusconi’s company, Fininvest, has consistently denied that a majority stake in the club was on the market. On Thursday, Fininvest had yet to comment on the recent revelations.

If the deal were to go through, Milan would become the second Serie A club to be sold to Asian investors. Indonesian tycoon Erick Thohir bought a 70 percent stake in Inter Milan in November 2013. – Agence France-Presse

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