Adriano Galliani is a smart man.
And contrary to the belief of some, he hasn’t become a smart man over the last 10 days. Nor has he become a smart man because he has helped build five sides that have won the UEFA Champions League in the last 21 years.
It is the recent work of Galliani that is most impressive.
In an era when teams will spend whatever it takes to win a championship, the AC Milan Vice President has helped build a championship team while using the word budget as part of the equation.
Some franchises in professional sports, like the New York Yankees and soccer clubs Real Madrid and Manchester United, operate under the idea of never-ending spending and eliminate the word debt from their vocabulary in the area of free-agent and transfer markets.
But Galliani is different.
He is the right-hand man to Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s current Prime Minister and AC Milan’s club president when he is not holding a public position.
Last summer, seeing that their club was losing millions every year, Galliani decided it needed to cut down on its debt. So the club sold its most valuable player, Brazilian playmaker Kaka, to Real Madrid for an estimated 67 million euros.
The move was very unpopular among fans.
As valuable as Kaka was, the club already had another outstanding playmaker in Brazilian Ronaldinho, whom the club purchased at a bargain rate of just 25 million euros in the summer of 2008. It had been just suggested a few years earlier that the transfer fee for Ronaldinho would perhaps reach close to 100 million.
But Galliani was able to take Ronaldinho from Barcelona, as the player had some problems and needed a change of scenery.
As a result of the sale of Kaka, Galliani announced this April that the Rossoneri’s debt had shrank to just 9.8 million euros (about $12.5 million). The number is incredible considering that Manchester United’s debt is believed to be more than a billion dollars (716 million pounds as of January).
In the past week, Galliani has jumped on the idea of acquiring two of the biggest stars in the game: Zlatan Ibrahimovic from Barcelona and Robinho from Manchester City.
Just 14 months ago, Barcelona pried Ibrahimovic away from Inter Milan in a deal valued at 66 million euros, as forward Samuel Eto’o went in the opposite direction.
But Ibrahimovic’s relationship with Barcelona coach Josep Guardiola went sour and the club loaned him to AC Milan for free, with the option to buy the player for 24 million euros next summer. Galliani even got the player to agree to a huge wage cut. The deal sent shock waves throughout Italy, as Ibrahimovic was joining the arch-rival of the club he had played for just two seasons ago.
But Galliani was not done.
There was another superstar out there who wanted out of his current situation so badly that his club was willing to offload him at a bargain rate. So Galliani jumped in and brought in small forward Robinho—who had been purchased by Manchester City from Real Madrid two summers ago for more than 42 million euros—for just 18 million euros.
He also brought in some money to offset the moves by selling Klaus-Jan Huntelaar for 13 million euros to German side Schalke and loaning Marco Borriello to AS Roma with the option to buy Borriello outright for 10 million euros.
Doing the math, Galliani has been able to bring in Ronaldinho, Ibrahimovic and Robinho for the same money that he sold Kaka.
If Galliani decides next summer that the debt is too high, he should be okay. Alexandre Pato is the club’s most valuable player in monetary value; now that he has a player with similar characteristics in Robinho, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Galliani sell Pato next summer to put the Rossoneri back in the Neri and not in the Rosso.