After Silvio Berlusconi's resignation, AC Milan fans are hopeful that the billionaire tycoon could take back the reins of his beloved football club and lead it to victory next year.
In an interview before stepping down as prime minister, the 75-year-old said, "Maybe I'll be the president of AC Milan again" -- a position that he was forced to give up due to a conflict of interests after winning the 2008 elections.
His statement has set fan sites abuzz. "Finally!" read several comments on one forum, with one fan saying: "It's what he's best at!"
"Berlusconi give up on Italy and come and help Milan rise to the top before they take you away in handcuffs," said another fan with a reference to Berlusconi's legal woes -- he is currently a defendant in three trials.
For a head of government with an outsize ego -- he once declared himself "the best prime minister Italy has ever had" -- AC Milan may be just the place.
The club, which has won five Champions Leagues, claims to be "the most victorious in the world" and fans are hoping for a new victory in 2012.
Fans are looking for some big-name buys like in the good old days under the media and construction magnate, who has owned the club for 26 years.
Berlusconi last year admitted that he could not afford Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo -- who was worth 92 million euros ($126 million) under his latest transfer from Manchester United to Real.
But there are rumors circulating within Berlusconi's Mediaset business empire that the tycoon could inject fresh capital in January into a club that he has constantly called "close to my heart."
A sign of that proximity is that Berlusconi's 27-year-old daughter Barbara was appointed to AC Milan's board last year. She is also romantically linked to the team's striker, Brazil's 21-year-old Pato.
After Berlusconi gave up the presidency of the club, his faithful lieutenant Adriano Galliani has been in charge with the title of "general administrator".
Asked in recent days about the prospects for Berlusconi's imminent return, Galliani said: "It's up to him to decide," hinting that he would give up his post to the ex-prime minister without batting an eyelid.
It would be a nostalgic return for Berlusconi, whose winning smile was a feature of Italy's football championship in the 1980s before he launched himself into politics in the early 1990s with a party named after a football chant "Forza Italia" ("Go Italy").
Under trainer Arrigo Sacchi -- a pioneer of total football, an influential tactic in which any player can take over the role of any other player -- the club reached summits that it has not seen since then.
With stars Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard, the club ruled Europe with a classy game full of panache -- qualities that Berlusconi also claimed for himself and helped propel him in politics.
Sports journalist Tiziano Crudeli -- a long-time fan of the club -- said he was overjoyed.
"I would be very happy if he returns to AC Milan," he said.
"I expect a different market, more investments. Because, let's be honest, as prime minister during a time of economic crisis in Italy he could not spend and expand for AC Milan -- it would have been unacceptable."
"Without those curbs now, I hope he can bring the club the necessary resources to return to the top of Europe."
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