Serie A

Former AC Milan owner Yonghong Li criticises 'unacceptable' treatment of Boban and Maldini

Both men look set to leave the club following the arrival of Ivan Gazidis at the Rossoneri

4:56pm on Tuesday 3rd March 2020
Carlo Garganese | Italian Football Expert

Yonghong Li has criticised AC Milan CEO Ivan Gazidis and owners Elliott Management Corporation for their 'unacceptable' treatment of directors Zvonimir Boban and Paolo Maldini.

The futures of Boban and Maldini have been in doubt ever since Gazidis was reported to have been in negotiations for Ralf Rangnick to take over next season in a managerial capacity.

On Friday, Chief Football Officer Boban branded Gazidis “disrespectful and inelegant” for going behind the back of technical director Maldini and himself.

Boban is now expected to leave the club in the next few days, with Maldini also likely to follow him out of the door in the near future.

AC Milan fans have reacted angrily to the alleged actions of Gazidis and Elliott, with the club set for their fourth change at management level in as many years.

And Boban and Maldini, who both enjoyed legendary playing careers with the Rossoneri, have found an ally in former AC Milan owner Yonghong Li.

“If what’s being said is true, I think it’s a shame,” Yonghong Li told FootballCritic.

“It shows terrible management – pure and simple. It is an unacceptable way to treat club legends. I have nothing but respect for Boban and Maldini.”

Yonghong Li purchased AC Milan from Silvio Berlusconi in 2017 and invested over €500 million into the club.

However, the Chinese businessman lost control of the club the following year when he failed to repay a €300 million loan to Elliott Management.

The American hedge fund thus assumed control and in December 2018 they appointed Gazidis as CEO.

Milan have continued to struggle under the new ownership but had enjoyed an improvement in fortunes on the pitch in 2020, losing just one of 11 games.

Much of this upturn in form was put down to Boban and Maldini’s strategy of mixing experienced players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic with promising youngsters.

However, it now seems as if Boban and Maldini’s days at Milanello are numbered.


The thorough details have never emerged, but when Yonghong Li bought AC Milan from Silvio Berlusconi in 2017 a high-interest loan from Elliott was obtained to help pay for the purchase. Li then couldn’t find the money to pay the loan back and lost the club the following year.

Li vanished until the end of last year when he set up a Twitter account and gave the below statement. His right-hand man at Milan also gave an interview to Forbes, but it didn’t reveal much on why they failed to pay.

“I’m a lifelong fan of my beloved #Rossoneri (@acMilan), and their future matters to me today as much as it ever did. I’m so sad at the way things are going now. If there’s any way I can still help, I will. I want to talk and to listen,” read the Twitter account.

“But I really don’t speak English or Italian too well, so I’ve had to stay out of Twitter up to now. But some English-speaking friends are helping translate for me.

“So here I am! I’ll be tweeting here from now on, with my thoughts about football, and in particular, anything involving #Rossoneri #ACM

“You may wonder why someone born in China fell in love with an Italian club. But lots of us did. Italian football was the first international football to be broadcast on TV in China. And the most magical, most legendary Italian club of all was AC Milan. I was a fan from the day I could kick a football.

“When I had the opportunity to invest, and to put my financial support behind #Rossoneri, I was so happy to do so, not as a venture capitalist looking for a quick profit, but as a real fan in a position to help the club I loved.

“I had clear plans for the future. But plans were dismantled, and I was suddenly no longer the owner of my beloved #ACMilan.

“I have not walked away. If I have the opportunity to help again, then certainly I will. Meanwhile, let’s talk together!”

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