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How the Italian Serie A season gave birth to new guard

FOOTBALL By Reuters | May 25th 2021
Juventus coach Andrea Pirlo watches during the Italian Cup soccer final match between Atalanta and Juventus at the Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia, Italy, Wednesday, May 19, 2021. (Alberto Lingri/LaPresse via AP)

A Serie A season like no other heralded a changing of the guard at the top of Italian football.

In his second year in charge of Inter Milan, Antonio Conte masterminded a superb league campaign that ended his club’s 11-year wait for the title.

In doing so, Conte halted Juventus’ nine-year stranglehold on the trophy, a run that he kick-started by leading the Turin club to the first three between 2011 and 2014.

The Bianconeri snuck into the top-four on the final day of the season, but it did little to paper over the cracks of a disappointing campaign.

Inter’s run to the title was more of a gradual acceleration than an explosive sprint out of the blocks.

Their rivals AC Milan were the early pace-setters, and it was only after suffering a disappointing group stage Champions League exit that Inter’s domestic dominance began to show.

Football - Serie A - Inter Milan v Udinese - San Siro, Milan, Italy - May 23, 2021. Inter Milan's Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku celebrate inside the stadium after winning Serie A. [REUTERS/Massimo Pinca]

Conte’s side were fired by Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, who scored 39 league goals between them, and marshalled by a defence that conceded a league-low 35 goals.

They reached top spot in mid-February and immediately stretched their advantage with a thumping 3-0 Milan Derby win. From there, Conte’s side never looked back.

Inter sealed the title with four games to spare, sparking huge celebrations from their long-suffering fans outside Milan’s iconic Duomo.

“They have grown a lot with their mentality. Now they are players who have won something,” Conte said.

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