May 14, 2021

Sports Legend

Inter fan party in Milan after 19th Serie A title triumph


FC Internazionale supporters celebrate in Milan’s Piazza Duomo on May 2, 2021, after the team won the Italian Serie A title. (Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP)

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 rival Juventus.

Antonio Conte’s side clinched their 19th Scudetto after Atalanta drew 1-1 at Sassuolo to leave the “Nerazzurri” 13 points ahead 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 won the trophy against his fierce rivals after finishing 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 was not used to winning. They were also the direct rival of Juventus, my former club. “

Inter are now the second most successful team in Italy, a league success ahead of bitter rivals AC Milan, but still far from Juve’s 36.

The Lombard team had not won the title since Jose Mourinho’s historic treble in the Champions League, Serie A and Coppa Italia in 2010.

Their last trophy was Coppa Italia in 2011 and they missed out on the Champions League for six seasons before Luciano Spalletti brought them back to Europe’s biggest club competition in 2018.

Conte is the 13th coach since Mourinho to sit on the bench at Nerazzurri 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 .

It is the first time that a foreign 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, of the project and of 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 his arrival in 2011.

Former Juve manager Giuseppe Marotta, who had worked alongside Conte in Turin, joined Inter as CEO of the sport in 2018.

In addition to Conte’s reported annual salary of € 12m ($ 14.4m), Inter spent nearly € 220m 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 a very good job of coming together and taking 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.

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