Inter fans party in Milan after their 19th title
MILAN: Thousands of people gathered in the streets of Milan on Sunday as Inter won their first Serie A title in 11 years to end the nine-year reign of rivals Juventus. Antonio Conte’s side clinched their 19th Scudetto after Atalanta drew 1-1 at Sassuolo to leave the “Nerazzurri” with a 13-point lead with four games to go.
Conte had started Juve’s record-breaking run, winning the first three titles in a streak that stretched from 2012 to 2020. The 51-year-old took over Inter in 2019 and lifted the trophy against their bitter rivals after having finished second last season. “This triumph is one of the greatest achievements of my career,” said Conte, who also won the Premier League with Chelsea in 2017. “It was not an easy choice for me to go to Inter , at a time when the team weren’t used to winning, they were also the direct rivals of my old club, Juventus.
Inter are now Italy’s second-most successful team, a league success ahead of their fierce 18 city rivals AC Milan but still a short distance from Juve’s 36. Lombardy had failed to win the title since Jose Mourinho’s historic Champions League, Serie A and Coppa Italia hat-trick in 2010. Their last trophy was Coppa Italia in 2011 and they missed out on the Champions League for six seasons before Luciano Spalletti took them out. leads back to Europe’s best club competition in 2018. Conte is the 13th coach since Mourinho to sit. Nerazzurri bench and the club have changed hands twice in the past decade.
Billionaire Massimo Moratti, whose family controls Italian oil refiner Saras Group, sold Inter to a consortium led by Indonesian business mogul Erik Thohir in 2013, with Chinese electronics retailer Suning Holdings Group taking a majority stake in 2016 This is the first time that a foreign owned Italian team has won the league title.
“It is moving and a special moment for everyone involved in this project and who have been with us on this trip,” said Inter chairman Steven Zhang. “To our fans around the world, in Milan and Italy, this Scudetto is for you. The future of Inter, the project and the Inter world is the same as it has been for 100 years and it always will be.
Inter targeted Conte to achieve what he had done to Juve, who had finished seventh in the previous two seasons before arriving in 2011. Former Juve manager Giuseppe Marotta, who had worked alongside de Conte in Turin, joined Inter as CEO of the sport in 2018. In addition to Conte’s reported annual salary of 12 million euros ($ 14.4 million), Inter spent almost 220 million euros on transfers in 2019 after his arrival.
Champions League flop
Conte turned the outfit back into a competitive unit after two fourth places under Spalletti. Despite a mixed start to this campaign behind closed doors amid the coronavirus pandemic, Conte found the winning formula and Saturday’s 2-0 win at Crotone extended his unbeaten 18 games.
Coming out of the Champions League in the group stage in December for the third consecutive season proved to be an incentive to focus on the league. “The key moment was in the week following our elimination from the Champions League,” said Conte. “We have been criticized from all sides, exaggeratedly. It was a bunch of guys who weren’t used to competing on all fronts. We have done very well to come together and take this over-the-top criticism on the chin.
A 2-0 win over Juventus in January fueled their ambitions, followed by a 3-0 victory over AC Milan in February to take the lead in the standings. Led by Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku and Argentina striker Lautaro Martinez Inter consolidated their title with an 11-game winning streak before being held by Napoli on April 18.
The triumph ends Juve’s golden age with the unsuccessful training bet of novice Andrea Pirlo, who played under Conte and succeeded Maurizio Sarri last summer. The end of a reign that followed the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal and relegation to Serie B in 2006, sees Juventus fighting for a top-four spot and Champions League football next season. “We will be back,” warned Juve president Andrea Agnelli on Twitter.
The Champions League will be Inter’s new challenge, having failed to reach the last 16 since the 2011/12 season. However, the future ownership of the club remains uncertain, with Inter suffering losses of € 100m last season mainly due to the coronavirus pandemic. Suning Group shut down Chinese club Jiangsu FC in February just months after winning the Chinese Super League title. – AFP