NANJING - Erick Thohir spoke to Inter Channel after the strategic partnership between F.C. Internazionale and Suning Holdings Group was announced at a news conference in Nanjing today.
"It wasn't an easy decision but I believe in the direction we've taken," the president began. "This is the era of super clubs and I can't deny I need help. It's important for Inter to grow and to be sustainable.
"We have a five-year plan and this is the second year. On the sporting side and the business side we've improved but it's not easy in an era of super clubs and we need to really compete. I hope what I did in the last two years will be respected. Not everyone will be happy but I did my best.
"If you look at what I said in November 2013, Inter is one of the top ten brands in the world but in terms of revenue we're number 17. With the era of super clubs, most of them have revenues of more than €300 million and it keeps increasing. With the new TV deal in the Premier League, I believe that of the top 30 clubs in terms of revenue, 20 will be from England. That's my calculation, though maybe I'm wrong. So by next year we might go down in the revenue table to number 20 or so. We can't just wait and see.
"As president I need to make decisions to ensure that Inter can be stable. Inter have to play in the Europa League and qualify for the Champions League. This might not be the best decision for everyone but it's what I feel as president of Inter is the best decision because Inter need to take advantage.
"Suning Group and chairman Mr Zhang believe in this project and he wants to build and invest in Inter together. He wants me to stay as president and he wants to keep the management because he believes in the project.
"We'd been searching for a partner in China and we really believe in this partnership. Mr Moratti is an entrepreneur, I'm an entrepreneur and it's good to meet Mr Zhang, who's also an entrepreneur, because we can talk on the same level - we have the same feelings and the same passion. I'm excited and I want to ensure we keep growing as a club and compete in the global game.
"The management and the project won't change. It's a five-year plan. But what will change is the number of fans in China. Inter's presence in China and Asia will be stronger and stronger.
"But as I said before, the heart of our fans is still in Italy. They're the ones who come to the stadium and who support Inter with their passion. This year we had an average attendance of 45,000 people – that's unbelievable. The number has increased and now we have the highest attendance in Italy so we have to say thank you to them.
"At the same time, because this is the era of digital, people connect to Inter globally. We have more than 100 million fans in China and we have to connect to them and connect to Asia. This is why next year and for the next five years we have decided to go to Asia so that we can be present there and China will be one our main focuses. We have 190 million fans in Asia and if you look at the data in Indonesia, the number of fans there is growing too."
"It's exciting to build this with the fans but our core fans are still in Italy. Things might change more on the business side and especially in China because Suning want to invest and grow the club.
"This year we have to play in the Europa League and it will be good if we can go as far as we can. Next year we have to be in the Champions League and to get there we'll work together – me Suning, chairman Zhang. I think the most important thing is for us to be playing regularly in the Champions League and we have to have investment.
"Financial Fair Play is another issue that we have to respect. We need to find a way and I'm sure we can, not cheat Financial Fair Play, but build something around Inter so that we can be consistently in the Champions League and grow our revenue. Inter is a global brand and the club has an amazing history so we have to be in that position again.
"I'm not going to sell my remaining 30% but people can speculate anything. I'm staying, I believe in the project. The management is working together and we have a big partnership now. We want to build something together.
"I have to thank Mr Moratti because he believed in the project. He's been supporting it for the last two and a half years and it's not easy. He's been open about his point of view and he's opened his heart because he believed in this transition period under me.
"He'll be a big part of Inter history and don't compare him to me because I haven't done anything yet apart from oversee the transition period so that Inter can compete.
"I really believe the relationship between me and Mr Moratti won't change. I'll still have dinner with him when I come because our relationship goes beyond business – it's like a discussion in the family. I believe he'll support Inter all the way and as we said with chairman Zhang today, he can still advise us. We need his advice because he knows Inter's fabric better than us.
"Inter Campus will continue working together with Mr Moratti and the family and Inter Campus is an important project for the future for us. Inter Campus will grow globally too under the direction of Carlotta Morattii.
"So it's a beautiful partnership and it's not the end of the story. Inter are still growing and it's exciting to see history continuing.
"We want to do our best. I really believe this is a good partnership. We still want to listen to what the fans are asking and we want to support the changes in globalisation. We still believe in Italian football. It needs to compete again and this is the time. Italian football was present in China many years ago and they have to connect together now. And with the support of great investment, from China to Italy, I think we can take advantage in a good way.
"Thank you for the support. I'll still be around. Thank you."
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