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Berlusconi quits to sidelines for next election

Former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi has said he will not stand as a prime ministerial candidate in elections next year. The controversial media magnate employed an unusual soccer metaphor to announce the news.

Italy's Silvio Berlusconi revealed on Wednesday that he would not be presenting himself as his party's candidate to be premier in a parliamentary election next spring.

Likening himself to a veteran soccer player, the 76-year-old said he would be handing over leadership of the People of Freedom (PDL) party to a successor, who would be appointed by the end of the year.

"I will not be presenting my candidacy but I will remain at the side of younger people who can play and score goals," said Berlusconi, owner of Italian football giants AC Milan.

"I still have good muscles and a head on my shoulders, but my role will be to give advice,” Berlusconi said, adding that the vote could place on December 16.

Referring to his first appointment as prime minister almost two decades ago, Berlusconi said it was down to party secretary Angelino Alfano "and a new generation of young people" to reproduce "the miracle of 1994."

Berlusconi's future had been a matter of debate in Italy, with many of his party's supporters urging him to return to the helm for the election. However, the divisive and flamboyant tycoon said earlier this month that he would withdraw his candidacy if it helped his party to forge a centrist-center right "moderate" coalition.

Berlusconi withdrew from the leadership of the Italian government in November 2011, handing over power to former European competition commissioner Mario Monti. The move came on the back of a parliamentary revolt and an episode of panic on financial markets about the country's finances.

The PDL, which Berlusconi founded in 2009, is beset with divisions between those loyal to the ex-leader and centrist supporters of the Monti government.

As well as representing a loathed figure for many Italian socialists, Berlusconi is also fighting a court case for allegedly having sex with a teenage prostitute known as "Ruby." Berlusconi is also alleged to have abused his position as prime minister by pressuring police to have the girl released from police custody when she was arrested on petty theft charges.

rc/mz (AFP, Reuters)