SAINTS chairman Nicola Cortese is ready to quit the club, it has been reported today.
Unconfirmed reports say that the 45-year-old is to leave Southampton after almost five years at the helm at St Mary’s.
The news comes as Italian giants AC Milan have again been linked with a move for the 45-year-old, who has helped mastermind the club’s rise from the verge of going out of business to ninth in the Premier League.
The Serie A club first enquired back in January 2010 about whether Cortese would be keen to join them.
That was just a few months into Cortese’s first season at St Mary’s, after being brought in by owner Marcus Liebherr following the latter’s takeover in July 2009.
Prior to Milan’s interest four years ago, Cortese had already claimed he had excellent contacts in the Italian game, including AC Milan.
It was these contacts that helped Saints sign Papa Waigo on loan in 2009 from Fiorentina.
AC Milan, who are reported to be on the verge of appointing former midfield Clarence Seedorf as new manager after sacking Massimiliano Allegri, following last Sunday’s embarrassing 4-3 loss at Sassuolo.
That defeat left AC a massive 30 points behind leaders Juventus.
Cortese’s star has risen in Italy for his work in helping Saints rise from the third division to the top ten of the Premier League inside three years.
Last May, Saints boss Mauricio Pochettino said he would leave St Mary’s if Cortese departed.
"I would not understand staying in this role if Nicola was not here,” Pochettino said at the time.
"The person that actually called me from the start, told me about the project and put their faith in me was Nicola.
"I have great respect as well for Southampton, the club and the supporters, but Nicola has been the one that has placed his trust and faith in me.
"I wouldn't see myself in this club if it was not for him. I think I am a very transparent person, a very honest person."
Cortese is familiar with AC Milan, and has previously spoken to the Italian media about their training facilities being an inspiration to what he is trying to build at Staplewood.
Last summer he told Corriere della Serra: “I visited Milanello ten years ago, which then became something of a reference point.
"It had great charm, it felt like joining a family. The model for our (Saints') training facilities is Milanello.”
AC Milan’s current chief executive, Adriano Galliani, has been in his role at the San Siro since 1986.
The 69-year-old said last November that he was planning to quit, but he is still in his role.
Barbara Berlusconi, daughter of club president Silvio Berlusconi, had previously said AC Milan needed a new philosophy - but denied calling for a change of chief executive.