Italian Prime Minister and AC Milan supremo Silvio Berlusconi has been in the news a lot lately. But mostly, for all the wrong reasons.
To say he has a colorful personality would be an understatement. It's still a puzzle whether he chases controversy or controversy chases him.
His name is being thrown around in many scandals, he is facing political and social criticism, and he is at the receiving end of many jokes.
But to the Rossoneri nation, he's the man! He has been with the club since forever, has seen good and bad times here, and has given a lot to the club.
He is not your typical, boring politician; neither is he your average, greedy sports-team owner.
Berlusconi's recent Milanello visit is the perfect example.
AC Milan have had a horrid preseason. With the exception of a mundane win against Varese at the start and a draw against LA Galaxy, Milan have lost every other match so far. The porous defense has been exploited, the midfield has shown lack of creativity, and, unless you are Inzaghi, you are not scoring goals for Milan.
The red and black part of Milan was already high on emotions this time round, knowing that their beloved Paolo Maldini will no longer lead the Rossoneri onto the field. Kaka's departure further led to disappointment. Berlusconi, understandably, even faced protests on the Kaka issue.
Then, whatever positivity was invoked by the appointment of young, ambitious Leonardo at the helm was washed away by the poor performances in the friendlies. Adriano Galliani's wonderful "We will see!" transfer window policy was anything but an assurance for the Milan fans, and the thought of Pirlo leaving the club could only send shivers down the Milan camp.
He talked with Leonardo and Galliani, and Milan right away issued a statement to the effect that Pirlo would stay with them. He even confirmed Milan were passionately pursuing a quality striker (Huntelaar! Shhhh...). Soon enough, Cesc Fabregas' name also was linked to Milan.
As always, he declared his complete trust in Leo and laid emphasis on building a young, positive Milan side.
True to his style, he didn't forget to take a friendly swipe at the recent spending spree of Real Madrid, either!
Berlusconi's visit has sprouted a renewed sense of hope and optimism in the Rossoneri realm. Milan's problems are by no means solved, but the fans are relieved to see a positive attitude from the management. Berlusconi, above all, gave the prime message—Milan fans, we are listening!
Berlusconi takes genuine interest in the club. He follows the team and understands the sport and "the game." He is a true football fanatic and loves the Rossoneri—not as an owner, but as a fan.
He thinks as a fan would, and not just as an owner. He listens, not just hears, what that 12-year-old boy proudly wearing the Milan jersey or that 35-year-old fan sitting in a cafe has to say about the club. He enjoys the game, loves watching Milan play, relishes their rivalry with Inter, celebrates watching Milan win a trophy and is saddened when they lose.
In his long association with the club, he has faced a lot of criticism. But every time, the larger-than-life Berlusconi has always emerged with a smile.
Only time will tell, what this upcoming season will bring for AC Milan. But one thing is for sure—the charismatic Silvio Berlusconi—not the prime minister, not the owner, not the investor, not the business and media tycoon, but the Milan fan(atic) Berlusconi will be cheering for the Rossoneri.