UEFA Will Reject A.C. Milan Plan for Turnaround

LISBON — The storied Italian club A.C. Milan has failed to convince top soccer officials in Europe that it has a viable plan to cut losses and finance growth, European soccer’s governing body will rule on Friday.

The ruling could lead to severe penalties, both on and off the field, for Milan. It is the latest wound that Italian soccer’s most hallowed institutions have endured during an increasingly troubled period for one of the world’s top soccer nations.

Last month, Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 60 years. Now, in the worst-case scenario, one of its renowned clubs could face a ban from European competition next year if it qualifies, as well as limits on acquiring new players.

At issue is whether A.C. Milan has a credible business plan that can stanch millions of dollars in losses and meet rules, known as Financial Fair Play, that prohibit clubs from spending beyond their means so club soccer does not turn into a battle of wealthy owners’ bank accounts.

In recent months, A.C. Milan has tried to explain to UEFA how its new owner, Li Yonghong, plans to make the club viable again, and justify the finances of a club that spent a Serie A record $270 million on new players for this season. Li, a little-known Chinese businessman, bought the money-losing club from the former Italy prime minister Silvio Berlusconi this year.

At stake is not only the reputation of Milan and its owner, but also of UEFA’s cornerstone financial regulations, which it says are critical to ensuring the health of clubs across the continent. UEFA is also examining the finances of Paris St.-Germain, the French champion, which acquired the two most expensive players in soccer history — Brazil’s Neymar and the teenage France striker Kylian Mbappé — despite warnings about the deals from UEFA’s president, Aleksander Ceferin.

A.C. Milan last month sent a delegation led by its chief executive, Marco Fassone, and Li’s chief lieutenant, David Han Li, to UEFA headquarters on the banks of Lake Geneva. Four hours of talks and a 160-page dossier outlining Li’s four-year plan only led to more questions. Those questions intensified two weeks after that visit, following an article in The New York Times questioning Li’s financial bona fides. The Times article reported that phosphate mines Li claimed as the centerpiece of his business empire appeared to be owned by others.

A.C. Milan has said it remains confident it can refinance its debt and meet UEFA’s standards.

UEFA is unlikely to issue penalties to the club before May. There are a range of economic and sporting penalties the group can enforce, including restrictions on new signings and even a ban from playing in European competition, the setting in which A.C. Milan forged its international reputation. Its seven European Cups are more than any other team, except Real Madrid, has won.

UEFA declined to comment on its plans or its discussions with A.C. Milan.

Li’s spending has failed to improve matters on the field for his new club. Twelve new players bought to return the team to glory have failed to jell, and the squad’s struggles near the middle of the Italian league table cost the coach Vincenzo Montella his job. On Sunday, in its first game under its new coach, Gennaro Gattuso, Milan allowed goalkeeper Alberto Brignoli to score on a header in the final minute to give last-place Benevento a 2-2 tie — and its first point of the season.

Li’s $860 million takeover of A.C. Milan was the most expensive among a number of Chinese buyouts in global soccer in recent years. It has also proved to be the most troubled. With the deal on the verge of collapse after several missed deadlines, Li turned to the hedge fund firm Elliott Management, which lent him $354 million at more than 11 percent interest.

Terms of the loan mean Elliott could take control of the club if Li does not repay Elliott in full by next year’s deadline. The club said last month that it had entered into a two-month exclusive discussion period with an unidentified firm in an effort to refinance the loan.

Ceferin, who became UEFA president in 2016, has talked tough about not being swayed by reputations when it comes to ensuring teams play by the rules. The situation with P.S.G. — whose Qatari owners have remade the club with more than $1 billion in acquisitions — has attracted the most attention because its purchases of Neymar and Mbappé in a single summer threatened its ability to comply with the Financial Fair Play regulations.

P.S.G. is now trying to raise additional money before UEFA’s financial controllers make their decision about its case. The club is likely to sell high-value players during next month’s European transfer window, and its marketing department is trying to renegotiate key sponsorship agreements.

UEFA will scrutinize those agreements because the governing body has questioned the amount the club has booked as income for some of its previous deals, notably an agreement with Qatar Tourism, which P.S.G. has claimed to be worth 200 million euros (about $235 million) a season.

Champions League: 5 English Teams Advance With Liverpool Rout

PARIS — England became the first country to have five teams in the knockout stage of the Champions League after Liverpool completed a sweep for Premier League clubs with a 7-0 thrashing of Spartak Moscow on Wednesday.

Liverpool, which has won Europe’s top competition five times, clinched Group E after Philippe Coutinho secured his first hat trick for the club.

Also qualifying for the last 16 on Wednesday were the former champion Porto, Sevilla and Shakhtar Donetsk. Napoli lost, 2-1, at Feyenoord and failed to qualify.

Liverpool was one of four English teams to finish at the top of a group, along with Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham. Chelsea, which won the tournament in 2012, also advanced, signaling a revival by English clubs after several years of underachievement.

The field for the knockout rounds also includes Barcelona, Basel, Bayern Munich, Besiktas, Juventus, Paris Saint-Gemain, Real Madrid and Roma.

Here is a look at what happened on Wednesday:

GROUP E Needing only a draw to qualify, it was all too easy for Liverpool at Anfield, where Coutinho led Liverpool’s dismantling of Spartak with two goals in the opening 15 minutes before completing his first hat trick for the Reds in the 50th.

Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah also scored, and Sadio Mane added two as Liverpool won by 7-0 for the second time in Group E, winning the group 3 points ahead of second-place Sevilla. Spartak finished in third place and dropped into the Europa League.

Liverpool finished the group stage with 23 goals, just two shy of Paris Saint-Germain’s record of 25 this season.

“Nobody could imagine that it would go like this tonight. It was an all or nothing game for both teams,” said Liverpool Manager Jurgen Klopp. “We opened the game perfectly and after we took the lead we didn’t have to defend. It was a nice night at Anfield.”

Sevilla qualified for the knockout phase with a 1-1 draw at Maribor.

GROUP F Shakhtar Donetsk advanced to the knockout stage with a 2-1 victory over Manchester City, ending the English club’s unbeaten record in all competitions this season.

Already guaranteed first place, City failed to become the seventh club in Champions League history to win every game in the group stage.

“The game didn’t go as we expected, in the first half they were better than us and it was a deserved win for them,” City midfielder Bernardo Silva said.

Shakhtar, which finished second in the group, took the lead in the 26th minute when Bernard cut in from the left side of the box and curled a shot inside the far post, beyond the reach of goalkeeper Ederson.

Eight minutes later, Ismaily sprinted to beat Ederson to the ball before rounding the keeper and stroking a shot into the unguarded net. City’s consolation goal came in added time when Sergio Aguero converted a penalty.

In the group’s other game, Feyenoord rallied from a goal down to beat Napoli, which failed to join Serie A rivals Juventus and Roma in the knockout stage. Napoli ended third and headed to the Europa League.

GROUP G Vincent Aboubakar scored twice to ensure Porto reached the knockout stage with a resounding 5-2 win against Monaco.

Both teams finished with 10 men after having players sent off late in the first half.

Turkish side Besitkas, which won by 2-1 at Leipzig, finished top of the group with 14 points. Porto had 10, and Leipzig will play in the Europa League.

GROUP H Cristiano Ronaldo became the first player to score in all six group-stage matches of the Champions League as Real Madrid beat Borussia Dortmund, 3-2.

Madrid had already guaranteed second place behind the group winner Tottenham, which defeated APOEL, 3-0, at Wembley Stadium to reach 16 points and finish with more points than any other team in the group stage.

Madrid ended with 13 points, and Dortmund and the Cypriot club APOEL finished with two points each. Dortmund took third place because of a better goal difference and will play in the Europa League.

Madrid led 2-0 after Borja Mayoral opened the scoring and Ronaldo, the all-time leading scorer in the Champions League with 115 goals, netted his ninth in the competition this season. The strike also drew him level with Lionel Messi on 60 all-time goals in the group stage.

Dortmund equalized with two goals by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, one in each half, but Lucas Vazquez got the winner in the 81st minute at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

Champions League: Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain Win Groups

Manchester United advanced to the Champions League knockout stage after rallying to beat CSKA Moscow, 2-1, on Tuesday to remain unbeaten at Old Trafford for a club record-equaling 40 successive games.

Basel joined United in reaching the next phase out of Group A by downing Benfica, 2-0.

Paris Saint-Germain won Group B despite losing at Bayern Munich, 3-1, the second straight loss for P.S.G., the French league leader.

Roma beat Qarabag, 1-0, to top Group C ahead of Chelsea, which had already clinched a knockout-round berth. The latter was held to a 1-1 draw at home by Atlético Madrid, which was eliminated after reaching the final in two of the last four years.

There could be five English teams among the last 16 for the first time if Liverpool advances on Wednesday.

Last year’s runner-up, Juventus, had to wait until the last group game to qualify. Juventus won at Olympiakos, 2-0, and advanced along with Barcelona, which beat Sporting Lisbon by 2-0 and won the group.

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Here is a look at other Tuesday games:

GROUP A Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford scored in a 66-second span for United, which became the third English team to finish at the top of its group. Manchester City and Tottenham were already assured of first place heading into their final group-stage games on Wednesday.

Lukaku volleyed in what was his second goal since September to tie the score in the 64th minute, and Rashford drove home an angled shot to give United the lead.

Vitinho gave CSKA Moscow a 1-0 lead seconds before halftime.

At Benfica, Basel forward Mohamed Elyounoussi headed in a cross from Michael Lang five minutes into the game and Dimitri Oberlin doubled the lead with another header in the 65th minute.

United won the group, finishing 3 points ahead of Basel. CSKA Moscow was left with a berth in the Europa League, and Benfica completed its Champions League campaign without a point.

GROUP B Paris Saint-Germain’s impressive attack improved upon its tournament record of 24 goals in the group stage, with Kylian Mbappé scoring the record 25th.

But it was not enough for P.S.G., which was coming off a stunning 2-1 loss to lowly Strasbourg in the French league over the weekend.

Robert Lewandowski got Bayern Munich off to a flying start and Corentin Tolisso doubled the German club’s lead before the break. Bayern needed just two more in the second half to top the group, but Mbappé dented those hopes soon after halftime when he headed home a ball sent in by Edinson Cavani.

Both sides finished with 15 points, well ahead of Celtic and Anderlecht, both of which had 3. Anderlecht beat Celtic in Glasgow, 1-0, but Celtic finished third to take the Europa League place.

GROUP C Diego Perotti scored early in the second half for Roma in its win against Qarabag.

But more intrigue came after the final whistle, as the Chelsea-Atlético match in England still had a couple of more minutes to go. The Roma squad waited in front of their fans and, as soon as the big screen showed the other match was over, there were huge cheers from players and supporters.

Demoted to the Europa League, Atlético will miss the Champions League knockout phase for the first time in five years. But even if Atlético had held onto its lead, which it secured in the 56th minute on a goal by Saúl Ñíguez, it would not have been enough to finish in the top two due to Roma’s victory.

Chelsea got its equalizer in the 75th minute when defender Stefan Savic turned Eden Hazard’s shot into his own net, helping the club to finish second. Qarabag finished at the bottom of the group.

GROUP D Juventus, a finalist in two of the last three seasons, secured its berth in the next phase with goals from Juan Cuadrado and Federico Bernardeschi.

Cuadrado lunged forward to meet a cross from Alex Sandro and beat Olympiakos goalkeeper Silvio Proto in the 15th minute.

Juventus Coach Massimiliano Allegri left striker Mario Mandzukic on the bench as he recovered from a calf injury, but the club looked comfortable playing in a low gear. Olympiakos tired toward the end of the game at Karaiskakis stadium, leaving Bernardeschi with an easy route to a goal in the 90th minute.

With Lionel Messi rested by Barcelona for the first hour, forward Paco Alcácer took full advantage of the opportunity by scoring a header in the 59th. Sporting Lisbon’s Jérémy Mathieu, a former Barcelona defender, added an own goal in stoppage time.

Club World Cup: Real Madrid, Sure, but Moroccans and New Zealanders, Too

Real Madrid is playing in an event next week with “World Cup” in its title. Sounds like a big deal, right? Well, sort of.

The Club World Cup, which gets underway on Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, is nominally a huge event: the world championship for soccer clubs from different continents. Just about every professional soccer team in the world is eligible, from Equatorial Guinea to Nepal.

Every year, the champion of each continent, plus a team from the host country, gathers for the single-elimination event. The winner is, in a manner of speaking, the world champion.

But the makeup of the tournament guarantees that besides the Champions League winner Real Madrid, the list of entries is often a trifle obscure. Wednesday’s opening game between Al Jazira of the United Arab Emirates and Auckland City of New Zealand hardly feels like a part of the world championship of anything.

Still, what the tournament lacks in depth of quality it makes up for in exotic allure. Also in the field are Gremio of Brazil, which just won South American championship, the Copa Libertadores; Pachuca of Mexico; Urawa Red Diamonds of Japan; and the African champion, Wydad Casablanca of Morocco.

The result, though not predetermined, should be fairly predictable. In the 12 years of the current format, the European entrant has won nine times (including the last four) and the South American entrant three. Teams from other regions have never won, and they have appeared in the final only three times.

Though all these teams are legitimate champions, the imbalance in quality means that the tournament is rarely taken too seriously, especially by the favored European teams. Chelsea was the last club from that continent to lose the Club World Club, in 2012, but few fans would consider that a stain on their Champions League title from that year.

In fact, the European teams often don’t even arrive until some of the other contestants have headed home. While the early rounds are going on, Real Madrid will be concentrating on more pressing matters: playing in the Champions League on Wednesday and in the Spanish League on Saturday. (In order to get the top teams to agree to play in the Club World Cup, organizers give the European and South American entrants byes into the semifinals.)

But while the event is greeted by yawns in Europe, it can be an exciting opportunity for the champions of the smaller continents. Auckland City’s website Tuesday included headlines like “Auckland Can Shake Up Club World Cup,” “We Can Achieve Something Special,” and “Road to U.A.E. Part 4.”

And the seven teams that made it have earned the right to some gloating. Thousands and thousands of clubs around the world failed to qualify. Major League Soccer, for example, has yet to get a team into this event via the Concacaf Champions League.

Still, despite the widespread indifference to it, the Club World Cup is a real FIFA tournament and will be televised around the world (in the United States, it will air primarily on Telemundo, plus Fox Soccer Match Pass online). And just to be safe, Real Madrid is likely to send out a strong team of household names, comparable to its lineup against Valencia or Villareal.

And regardless of your opinion of the event, it does have one inescapable draw: when else are you going to get a chance to watch Moroccan and Mexican teams face off early on a Saturday morning?