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Inter owner says no final deal yet with Thohir

By Massimo Gaia

MILAN (Reuters) - Inter Milan owner Massimo Moratti said on Thursday no binding agreement had yet been reached to sell a stake in the Italian soccer club to Indonesian tycoon Erick Thohir, although he saw no major obstacles to a sale.

Earlier on Thursday a source close to the talks said a preliminary deal had been agreed at a meeting in Paris on Wednesday. The deal was not yet legally binding and final signatures were outstanding, the source added.

Thohir, a wealthy businessman with an interest in various sports ventures globally, and Moratti have been in talks about a potential deal for months.

Italian media have said Thohir might be willing to pay up to 350 million euros ($474 million) for 75 percent of the cash-strapped Serie A club.

"No, absolutely not," Moratti said in recorded comments made to reporters in Milan and sent to Reuters, in response to a question on whether a binding deal had been reached.

Moratti said another month of talks would be needed.

"There are no major problems to reach an eventual agreement," he added.

Thohir is part owner of Major League Soccer club DC United and NBA team the Philadelphia 76ers.

Moratti had previously said he was not ready to sell a majority interest in the club, which is loss-making and has debts of about 300 million euros.

Moratti does not expect to remain at the club as chairman after the deal, saying on Thursday: "I don't know. With this situation... no, I don't think so."

CASH-STREPPED INTER

Inter are traditionally one of the three biggest clubs in Italian soccer with champions Juventus and city rivals AC Milan.

They have not won a trophy since 2010 and finished a disappointing ninth last season, missing out on a place in the lucrative Champions League.

Walter Mazzari's side have had an encouraging start to the new campaign and are third in Serie A with seven points from three games, two points behind Napoli and AS Roma.

Italian soccer has not attracted the major foreign investment seen in countries like England and France.

Europe's top league in the 1990s, Serie A has been tarnished by a series of corruption scandals and hooliganism has reduced crowd numbers.

Italian clubs have been held back commercially because many of them do not own their stadiums and have been unable to upgrade them to cater fully for wealthy corporate clients.

Inter, for example, share the San Siro stadium with AC Milan and the ground is owned by the local authorities.

($1 = 0.7384 euros)

(Reporting by Massimo Gaia, Agnieszka Flak and Stephen Jewkes, editing by Ed Osmond)

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