From a masterpiece at AC Milan to a 'bus full of wh*res' at Monza: Silvio Berlusconi was both the most divisive and successful president in football history

Silvio Berlusconi AC Milan 2011Getty

The comedian Dylan Moran once joked that Silvio Berlusconi was "so thoroughly corrupt that every time he smiles, an angel gets gonorrhoea". The former Italian prime minister was certainly a dubious character, right until the end of a life that was as extraordinary as it was controversial.

Even while battling the health problems to which he eventually succumbed, he continued to generate headlines, in football and far beyond. Just a few months ago, he publicly criticised Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky, which prompted one of Zelensky's aides, Mykhailo Podolyak, to label Berlusconi "a VIP agitator who is acting in the interests of Russian propaganda".

Just a couple of days later, he was cleared of paying witnesses to lie in an underage prostitution case that had dogged him for more than a decade. "Finally acquitted after more than 11 years of suffering, mud-slinging and incalculable political damage," he wrote on Twitter.

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It is worth noting, though, that while Berlusconi was also acquitted in the original case, he had been found to have paid a teenager for sex. However, there had been no proof that Berlusconi knew the girl in question was a minor.

One with no previous knowledge of Berlusconi would be forgiven, then, for thinking that he might shy away from discussing – let alone joking about – delicate subjects such as prostitution. But this was a man with scan regard for social etiquette, meaning he was never afraid to make light of the most uncomfortable of topics.