Paolo Scaroni, AC Milan president (left) with Saeed Hareb, Secretary General of Dubai Sports Council at The One and Only Royal Mirage, Dubai. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar continues to take centre stage but there is another tournament happening right here in Dubai featuring some of the world’s top football teams and players.

AC Milan are competing with Arsenal, Liverpool and Lyon in the Dubai Super Cup as part of their preparations for the resumption of the Serie A season in January 2023. The Rossoneri play Salernitana on the 4th and have a great opportunity to regain some match sharpness by playing two competitive matches in Dubai.

The team is here for ten days where coach Stefano Pioli and his players can take advantage of the state-of-the-art facilities to prepare for the second half of the season.

Fourth visit

This will be AC Milan’s fourth official visit to Dubai this year and President of the club, Paolo Scaroni, says this underlines the commitment it has to the whole Middle Eastern region and to the UAE in particular. “AC Milan is here because we have lots of fans here and also we have Emirates here which is our shirt sponsor which has been with us since 2007 so Dubai is very important for us.”

Scaroni says he is aiming to help grow the AC Milan brand in the Middle East but is still surprised when fans of the club recognize him here - even though he is the chairman of one of the biggest clubs in world football. “People love football in the UAE and here we have lots of fans of the club and we want to be part of this great love we feel. I spend a lot of time taking selfies with people that I don’t know which means they recognize the chairman of AC Milan!”

Scaroni with the Coppa Campioni d'Italia trophy which AC Milan won last season. Image Credit: Supplied

The mid-season competition is being held at the 15,058-capacity Al Maktoum Stadium – the home of Al-Nasr Club – which may be five times smaller than the San Siro in terms of capacity but Scaroni says the club is planning to downsize when they build a new arena. “We never reach the 80,000 capacity of San Siro – the maximum we have is 75,000 people there. So the new stadium will be close to 70,000 because we want the stadium to be full and we want to be a stadium that is very efficient so the idea is to reduce capacity a little.”

San Siro has been home to AC Milan since 1926 while Inter Milan began sharing the venue in 1947. Scaroni understands it will be a sad day when the team leaves the UEFA category four stadium but he says it cannot be refurbished. “We could not rebuild the San Siro because with two teams playing there - both of them in the Champions League - there are too many fixtures to consider. Also the stadium would require major refurbishment and this would be very difficult. There is no stadium with a decent capacity close to Milan which we can spend some period of time while we are rebuilding San Siro. That is the reason why we need a new stadium.”

New stadium

Scaroni says the new stadium will further assist the club’s finances which have been improving steadily for some time now. The club now has a very low level of debt and it is generating money which he says is a new thing for them after many years of difficulty. “Having a modern stadium is essential for the growth and evolution of the club. We need to bridge the gap between Serie A and the major leagues in Europe, first of all the Premier League, where stadium revenues represent one of the main growth factors in recent years.”

The Dubai Super Cup began last Thursday with Mikel Arteta’s Premier League side beating Laurent Blanc’s Ligue 1 outfit 3-0 - but the excitement is growing for the reigning Serie A champions’ first match on Tuesday 13th against the Gunners and Scaroni is looking forward to it. "The overall training camp is a good opportunity for the team to get ready for the second half of the season. We will play Arsenal and Liverpool in the tournament, which will be two interesting tests considering we will play against an English side in the Champions League," he says.