Suning vice-president and Inter director Steven Zhang has called for the club’s fans to be patient as the management team implement their strategy for Inter’s long-term growth.
Over the last seven games, Inter are bottom of the form table with just 1 point from a possible 21, and after challenging for Europe earlier in the season have now slumped to eighth place. Speaking to CNBC, however, Zhang suggested that Suning weren’t expecting immediate results as – like a company – it takes time to see the changes being made.
“Football in Europe is like a religion, people are crazy about it. So when Suning – as a consumer company – invested in this football club, we wanted to make this club into a gate to new cultures, trades, experiences. Of course football is football, you always have ups and downs. You cannot really change your company, or a club, in a really short period of time.
“Of course coaches are very important for a team, but it’s like a company finding the right employees – it’s the same thing. So we need people, players, management, who really believe in the company and play for the club with their heart and spirit. When people talk about plans for next season, that’s not really my mentality or the things I’m thinking about. I’m more thinking about where the club’s going in 3 years, 5 years, 10 years.”
Zhang explained that this long-term view required more investment than simply buying new players, but instead Suning would be looking at investing in youth facilities, the training ground and – perhaps due to the fine line the club are currently treading with Financial Fair Play regulations – encouraging the development of younger players. However, he was less forthcoming on the exact figures that the management team would be willing to invest.
“This is a very difficult question, it always depends on how much revenue we’re getting from the club. It’s not only about exactly how much money we’re putting in, it’s more about the strategy of how we should invest in the club. The first, most important thing is to really invest in facilities, invest in the youth academy and training facilities, because in order to have long-term growth at the club, in order to have a healthy club, you have to make sure that the younger generations and younger players can give their best and play in the first team.
“[The supporters must] have patience and trust in the club. I know fans love the club from their heart so as a club, as a management, as a company, for sure we’ll try our best and we’ll do it step by step.”
Inter have already begun developing the commercial side of their training and youth facilities, having sold the naming rights of their Pinetina training ground to Suning for €60 million over four years, while Suning.com have also become the club’s official Training Apparel Partner.