MILAN – Inter president Erick Thohir has set off for London this morning on business connected with the Mahaka Group, his Indonesian company working in media and communication.
Before he departed, he released the following interview to Sky Sport.
President Thohir, can you tell us about your trip to Paris and the one you're about to take?
"As always, it's good to meet with other presidents. I was in Madrid before to say hi to Florentino Perez and we also met with him in China. We met with Karl-Heinz Rummenigge in China as well.
"Since Nasser Al-Khelaifi invited us, I think it was good to be there because we've played Paris Saint-Germain two times already: last year and this year. And there might be a possibility of playing PSG again in the future. At the same time, for example, I had dinner with the AS Monaco vice president the other evening.
"It's good to speak with other clubs. It's about relations, we didn't discuss players or anything. It's important for big clubs to have good relations. This is also why I keep saying that in Serie A it's important for the clubs to have good relations because otherwise we'll all have different strategies. If we talk together maybe we can all move in the same direction."
Why did you decide to send the team on the training camp? What are you expecting for Saturday's match?
"The training camp was Roberto Mancini's decision together with the management team. But I think it's good. Maybe it's not so common in other countries. It's good for them to come together for three or four days, to do something together as a team in a calm environment.
"We have to win tomorrow, we have a good team and Roberto Mancini is the best coach for us. We have a competitive squad and we were able to strengthen it in the January transfer window as well. We still have 13 matches to go, the team has to stay calm and fight for our objectives."
We know about the agreement with Pirelli. Can you explain the plans to make Inter stronger from a financial point of view, also taking into account if you don't make qualification for the Champions League?
"It's a long relationship with Pirelli. The agreement is a positive thing for our relations, we've just extended our partnership for another five years. It will become the longest sponsorship deal in Italian football and one of the longest in Europe. Pirelli is a good brand and so is Inter.
"Working together is good for both parties. Especially now both companies are looking at Asia for future partners. It's good to decide what we can come up with together as a strategy to penetrate the Asian market.
"Also, we always have a business plan for every situation: one for the Champions League, one for the Europa League and one in case we don't qualify for either, which obviously wouldn't be good. Revenue is still growing and we've built a competitive squad. If we get into the Champions League, we'll have more opportunities to invest."
Is there any news on the partner you're looking for in China? Hainan airlines have been mentioned. Could they acquire some of your shares?
"I think this is where people are mistaken. We're looking for sponsorship partners globally – from Indonesia, China, anywhere. We don't have any airline partners and that's why some people have mentioned Garuda before.
"Hainan are looking for sponsorship partners but we've spoken to other airline companies globally too about becoming our partners. Because as you know, in sponsorship we have car partners, airline partners, bank partners.
"In China it's a different ball game right now. They're breaking the records on spending money on players. They're building up Chinese football seriously. I think it's a good opportunity for us to connect with them as a club.
"As for equity partners, we haven't discussed that seriously but it's something we could discuss in the future so you never know. We shouldn't close our eyes because at the end of the day the world has become very global but at the same time it's good to have partners that can make sure Inter keep growing."
Mourinho and Ronaldo will probably be at San Siro tomorrow. Have you ever met them?
"It's great that they're coming to the Meazza. I met Ronaldo in Paris and I'm a fan of his. We discussed a lot of things and it's very good that he can come to San Siro. I invited him to come and support Inter and he was open to that idea. Maybe we could even work with him on the other side of the world with Inter.
"I met Jose Mourinho in Jakarta a few years ago before I became president of Inter. He's a manager of the highest calibre who made history at Inter but we have Roberto Mancini now and he also has a good track record, winning lots of trophies. I still believe he can revamp the team.
"If you compare this year's Inter with last year's, it's a different team. But of course we need time and that's not just an excuse. At the same time, Roberto Mancini knows what our target is – we want to be in the Champions League. That's why he's very serious about working closely with the players at the moment."
Could you reassure us on Icardi's future? Because Mourinho likes him...
"Icardi is part of our plans. If you look at Murillo, Miranda, Medel, Kondogbia, they're all part of our plans, like Icardi. The same goes for Telles, Ljajic and Jovetic – our plan is to bring them all together. Palacio has extended and we're still in discussions with Nagatomo.
"We have to try and keep the squad together for two or three years. You can't change the team every season – we have to keep largely the same team and maybe bring in two or three new players."
Will you keep faith with this team even if you don’t make the Champions League?
"Yes, the Champions League is our target but of course sometimes in football results are 50-50. So I’m really looking forward to the match against Sampdoria and I believe I’ll have lunch with president Ferrero next week.
"It’s good to meet with different presidents. It’s good to see the fans too and there are a few Inter legends coming."
Now you’re off to London?
"Yes, I’m going to London on Mahaka business not for Inter. It’s my other business but I’ll be back."
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