According to the Associated Press, an Italian court has just convicted former Italian Prime Minister and AC Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi of tax evasion, and have handed down a sentence of four years in prison.
While he was much maligned for his indiscretions, Berlusconi rescued AC Milan from bankruptcy in February of 1986, and in his time has owner, Milan has enjoyed some of their best seasons in their history.
As we all know, the world tends to have a trickle-down effect—when the going is good for the boss, it's good for the employees, and vice versa. Milan will unfortunately experience the latter as it will struggle mightily to cope with an absentee owner, especially as it is a club in such turmoil right now.
This leaves the question of who will bankroll the Rossoneri.
This sentencing could not have occurred at a worse time for Milan, as they are currently going through their worst period in some time. The front office has billed it as a rebuilding period, but during a rebuild, one should be able to expect even a modicum of success.
Milan sit 15th in the Serie A table now, and have barely been able to do anything on offense, scoring barely over a goal per game while conceding more than they score.
The job security of Massimiliano Allegri has been decimated, and it seems as though the Rossoneri are getting closer and closer to finding a new man for the job. They've gotten very disappointing performances from new players Giampaolo Pazzini, who only had one good game for the club, and Bojan, who has been largely unimpressive for the club.
Kevin-Prince Boateng was a revelation last season and asserted himself as one of the world's best; however, he has been aimless this season, and it looks as though he's forgotten how to finish. Antonio Nocerino, last season's bang-for-your-buck purchase who was acquired through a master stroke of transfer-window aficionado Adriano Galliani, has been awful, and looks a completely different player than he was last season.
Milan need as many players as they can to step up, and they've had virtually none do so.
Alexandre Pato, probably Milan's best player in this depleted squad, will likely be featured off the bench for the next few games until he gets back to full match fitness. With how Milan have played thus far, changes were certain to come in the January transfer window as Berlusconi wouldn't let his Milan become the laughing stock of Serie A.
Now with Berlusconi gone, it begs the question: who will provide the financial backing for Milan?
He's a billionaire, and although he sold Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva to balance the books, he has shown in his past that he will splurge to get his man. That type of ownership is great for fans as more often than not, the club will have a great shot of getting the player, yet this methodology has seemed to have gone by the wayside amidst these monumental struggles.
With the club's brass in complete disarray, Milan should be sold sooner rather than later. Selling a gigantic commodity like a football club, especially one the size and class of Milan, is not something that can really be expedited. It takes time, and Milan doesn't really have time.
I don't think anyone really expected them to play this badly, but the fact of the matter is that if this trend continues, Milan could be forced to deal with something they haven't had to in thirty years.
The threat of relegation.
The last time AC Milan were in Serie B was 1982, and it wasn't due to poor play, but rather due to a betting syndicate that involved bribes. While I don't think that Milan will be relegated this season, hovering this close to the drop zone a quarter of the way through the season is very disconcerting.
This is a time where a club needs its owner to step in and make the necessary changes, whether it is to purchase new talent or look for a new manager.
Milan will lack this leadership and direction now with Berlusconi behind bars. While the Italian entrepreneur is expected to appeal the sentencing (and in turn likely drag out another legal battle), who knows what level of contact he'll be allowed to the club, or if he will even have the time to dedicate to his beloved football club.
The best thing for all parties would be if Berlusconi sold Milan so he can focus on his legal troubles, and the team he has so loved could be taken over by a owner who can bring them back to Serie A supremacy.
However, don't expect a quick resolution, Rossoneri fans. It could take a while.