Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is set to sell seven-time European champions AC Milan to a Chinese consortium, according to a broker acting for both parties. Italian born American, Salvatore Galatioto said that the deal is expected to be sealed within six to eight weeks.

The surprise news comes as Berlusconi had only weeks ago insisted that he would not sell a majority stake in the Serie A giants. The billionaire is said to have moved his sights away from earlier plans to sell a minority stake in the football club to Thai businessman Bee Taechaubol.

In an interview with Gazzetta delio Sports on 16 April, Galatioto said that the deal could be sealed by the end of the season. The broker is considered one of the 50 most influential men in American sports, according to AFP.

"For obvious reasons I cannot reveal who the potential buyer is. I can only say that it is a Chinese group that has big ambitions and that is very, very interested in the club. We have very interesting ideas and projects pertaining to the club, but first we have to strike the deal," Galatioto said.

He continued: "I would say that if things go to plan, the deal could be concluded in six to eight weeks. Milan is a great city, but above all the AC Milan brand is fantastic." Explaining his interest in the deal, the broker said: "I'm not just interested in profit. I want to see a club be competitive in sporting as well as financial terms."

So who are the interested Chinese parties? According to reports, it could be either internet entrepreneur Robert Li or air-conditioning billionaire He Xiangjian. Both men are among the 10 richest in China, according to the 2015 Forbes rich list.

Milan failed to qualify for the Champions League for a third consecutive season. The failure cost coach Sinisa Mihajlovic his job. He was replaced by Cristian Brocchi. The football club is now fighting to qualify for the Europa League.