MILAN - AC Milan have paved the way for foreign investment by admitting they could sell up to 30 per cent of the club, while reports that Gazprom were an interested party were played down by the Russian energy giant on Thursday.
For the second successive season, Milan have struggled to live up to expectations in Serie A leading to reports that club owner and president Silvio Berlusconi could eventually sell up.
The Corriere della Sera claimed on Wednesday Milan would be open to investment from interested parties from Russia or the Gulf States, with speculation elsewhere suggesting Gazprom was set to step in.
A statement from Gazprom on Thursday, however, denied any such move was planned.
"Gazprom is not holding any talks with AC Milan concerning a possible sponsorship or purchasing of the club's shares," the company was quoted as saying through spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov in Moscow.
Yet Milan could follow in the footsteps of city rivals Inter by selling at least part of the club to a foreign investor.
In November 2013, Indonesian businessman Erick Thohir effectively became Inter's new owner when he acquired a 70 per cent share in the club.
Berlusconi's daughter Barbara, deputy chief executive at the club, said Milan would be willing to sell up to 30 per cent of its shares, mainly to help fund the construction of a new stadium, and would be sending a delegation to the United Arab Emirates next week.
The club are already "looking for the ideal location," she said in a report in Gazzetta dello Sport.
"I want to reiterate my family's commitment to Milan," added Berlusconi, who also sits on the board.
"There has been talk of selling the club, but that is incorrect. However a partnership would be more welcome and help us to broach key issues such as the construction of a stadium.
"We are ready to consider the sale of a minority stake, around 20-30 per cent."
Berlusconi said members of the club, including commercial directors, would be travelling to the United Arab Emirates from April 6-11 "to look for partners willing to join with us".
"And this would help us to compete with all the top clubs. Achieving this is crucial," said the 29-year-old.
Milan have been crowned European champions seven times but, having been knocked out of the Champions League earlier this season, are set to miss out on next season's competition.
Clarence Seedorf's side currently sit in 11th position, 39 points behind leaders Juventus and 22 behind third-placed Napoli who occupy the final Champions League spot.