China's Evergrande denies AC Milan deal

Guangzhou:Chinese football club Guangzhou Evergrande has rejected reports that it is involved in the acquisition of Italian Serie A giants AC Milan. "Those reports are sheer rumours, I've never heard of any plan to buy any foreign football club," a top Evergrande official told Xinhua on Friday. Milan are currently controlled by Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's former Prime Minister. Italian media reported on Thursday that Berlusconi had already agreed a deal worth 750 million euro (around $832.1 million) with a group of Chinese investors led by Baidu CEO Robin Li and "leader of Evergrande group". "Actually, I am not surprised at this kind of news. We've got used to it," the official said on condition of anonymity. "We have been linked with at least a dozen of companies since last year. Chinese companies have been very active in the world football industry, and Evergrande is a familiar company to foreign media, so we frequently made headlines," he added. The Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao club, currently owned by Evergrande group and E-commerce giant Alibaba, has been a strategic partner of AC Milan since December 2012. Meanwhile, Baidu could not be reached for comment immediately. Chinese companies have been showing a growing interest in football since the country unveiled a reform plan last year that aims to make China a major power in the game. Last month, China's retail giant Suning Group acquired 70 per cent stake in Inter Milan, a deal worth 270 million euros (around $300 million). China's Desports spent 37 million euros ($41 million) to complete the acquisition of 98 per cent stake in Spanish top-flight side Granada. Last year, listed company Rastar purchased a major stake in Spanish club Espanyol, and Chinese entrepreneurs have already acquired minority stakes in England's Manchester City and Spain's Athletic Madrid as well.