Silvio Berlusconi dies at 86: what Gullit and the papers say

Silvio Berlusconi (l) with Mark Rutte in 2010. Photo: AFP

Official reaction in the Netherlands to the death of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi on Monday diplomatically avoided any mention of scandal, but the Dutch papers are less circumspect.

Prime minister Mark Rutte tweeted that Italy had lost a man “full of character” who he would remember as “a striking and passionate politician”.

Former AC Milan player Ruud Gullit was more fulsome in his praise of his former boss. “He came to fetch me personally from PSV to play in Italy. I am eternally grateful to him for that because he gave me the best time of my life,” Gullit gushed in the Telegraaf.

“AC Milan was his baby and he was a great chairman. He came to the training complex at Milanello every Friday by helicopter, talked to us and the trainer, as if he was one of the team. That is how we looked at him.”

The gloves come off in an obituary in the Volkskrant which describes his life as a quest for “power and money” and explores his ties with organised crime and other dodgy dealings.

The NRC called Berlusconi “Trumpian”, a man who “could get away with anything because “he spoke the language of the people”. His influence on Italian society endured, despite “the stench of mafia and sex parties”.  It was Berlusconi who helped the current radical right wing prime minister Giorgia Meloni to power in 2022, the paper pointed out.

The FD quotes Italian political scientist Giovanni Orsina who said that Berlusconi was not “an effective leader in the end. The Berlusconi years have become a symbol for stagnation in Italy, because although he modernised the country politically he did not do the same for the economy,” the paper said.

Thank you for donating to

We could not provide the Dutch News service, and keep it free of charge, without the generous support of our readers. Your donations allow us to report on issues you tell us matter, and provide you with a summary of the most important Dutch news each day.

Make a donation