MILAN — Dramatic news reaches us in the newsroom: Another 550 people have died from the coronavirus in one day in Italy; desperate appeals resound from hospital ICUs; thousands of people are homeless; and at the Inter Milan soccer club, they don't know how to pay their salaries.
This last bit of news plunges onto our desks like a knockout blow: Beppe Marotta, managing director of the storied Italian club, says that the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus is ruthless, and now the cost of labor is higher than Inter's incoming revenue. His cry of pain is directed to the Italian government. Mr. Marotta is asking for tax payments to be deferred or he won't be able to pay his coach, Antonio Conte, his net wage of 1 million euros — per month!
Some situations have begun to resemble the line outside the local food bank. Striker Romelu Lukaku makes a net 7.5 million euros per year. Same goes for playmaker Christian Eriksen, who isn't even on the starting 11 and might be the highest paid back-up in the northern hemisphere. Striker Alexis Sanchez earns 7 million euros; Arturo Vidal 6.5 million; and defender Achraf Hakimi, just signed over from Real Madrid for 40 million euros, can count on some 416,000 euros per month but might struggle to make ends meet after the third week of the month.
No one wants to be in Conte's shoes.
These champions already pay half of the income tax paid by ordinary Italians — according to a law designed to attract foreign sportsmen to Italy — but it still isn't enough to avert the looming tragedy.
Clearly, no one wants to be in Conte's shoes — not the Inter coach Antonio, but Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte — as he faces the piercing dilemma: write off the tax payments of these poor millionaires, or use them to cure the elderly in intensive care? Ah, cruel decision!
Except, of course, if there's a third option: Mr. Lukaku and the others could cut their meager wages by a fraction to avoid their employers' bankruptcy and future-proof their careers. And if the sacrifice is unsustainable, these strong young men could always train to become nurses in Italian hospitals.
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