BY DONG QIU DI
Italian Serie A side Inter Milan has appointed Steven Zhang Kangyang (张康阳), the 26-year-old son of China’s home appliance giant founder & owner Zhang Jindong, as the new President, replacing Indonesian businessman Erick Thohir.
Kangyang, the son of Zhang Jindong – the owner of the Suning Holdings Group, Inter’s majority stakeholders – has been overseeing the day-to-day running of the club ever since the Chinese group bought out the majority of Thohir’s shares and the remainder of former owner Massimo Moratti’s stake in the Nerazzurriin June 2016.
Thohir – who maintains a minority stake in the Serie A side – stayed on as the club’s president for the past two years, but he has been less involved in the operative running and has now been replaced by the Kangyang.
“I’m the youngest president (of a professional football club) in Italy and in Europe, but I’ve been with the club for two years, during which I have shown my progress. I know this position means massive duty, but I don’t think age is a problem. I’m sure I can do well,” Kangyang said after the appointment being announced.
Former Argentina international and legendary Inter captain Javier Zanetti will continue in his role of vice-president with Alessandro Antonello the club’s general manager.
Inter announced the changes at a shareholders’ meeting in Milan on Friday.
Since changing hands from Thohir to Zhang Jindong in 2016, the Nerazzurri have succeeded in returning to the Champions League, edging out Lazio on the final day of last season in the race for fourth place.
Despite being in the bottom pot of seeds on their return to European football’s top club competition after a seven-year absence, they are in a promising position in Group B with wins over Tottenham Hotspur and PSV Eindhoven followed by a defeat to Barcelona this week, leaving them in second place at the midway stage — five points ahead of Spurs and PSV.
In Serie A, Luciano Spalletti’s men lie third after a 1-0 win over city rivals AC Milan in the derby last weekend. They trail league leaders Juventus by six points and are two adrift of second-placed Napoli.
They last won Serie A in 2010, when they clinched an unprecedented Serie A, Coppa Italia and Champions League treble under Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho.
Kangyang becomes the 21st president of the 110-year-old football club.
But he isn’t the first Chinese president of an Italian top-tier football sider.
Li Yonghong, a 49-year-old businessman born in Guangdong, was known for his short lived, unsuccessful ownership on AC Milan, Inter’s same-city arch rival, from Apr 2017 to July 2018.
But China’s netizens and Inter fans think Kangyang is different from Li.
Mr. Woma, a netizen on All Football App (懂球帝), China’s most popular football news application, says Kangyang, who owns a bachelors degree in Economics of Wharton Business School of the US’ prestigious Pennsylvania University, is a cool-headed, humble and far-sighted.
Optimistic fans say Inter could win the Serie A’s league title back within five years.
From 2006 to 2010, the club won five successive league titles. But Turin-based side Juventus have won seven titles ever since.
The writer is a sports writer based in Beijing