Serie A season recap: Inter ends 11-year wait, Juventus declines

Inter Milan manager Antonio Conte halted Juventus' nine-year stranglehold on the trophy, a run that he kick-started by leading it to the first three between 2011 and 2014.

Juvnetus coach Andrea Pirlo's future, and that of league top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo, have been called into question over the course of the season as a result of the underperformance.   -  GETTY IMAGES

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.

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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.

IRRESISTIBLE INTER

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

Its rival AC Milan was the early pace-setter, and it was only after suffering a disappointing group stage Champions League exit that Inter's domestic dominance began to show.

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

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.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

It reached the top spot in mid-February and immediately stretched its 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 its long-suffering fans outside Milan's iconic Duomo.

"They have grown a lot with their mentality. Now they are players who have won something, and therefore they know the path to follow to continue winning," Conte said.

PIRLO UNDER PRESSURE

There is little doubt that Juventus’ sharp decline aided Inter's cause.

The appointment of rookie coach Andrea Pirlo at the start of the season was a big gamble, as the former Juve and Italy midfielder had no prior experience.

But few expected it to go so badly wrong. Pirlo struggled to settle on a line-up or system that worked as his side failed to top the table at any point over the season.

Victories in the Italian Super Cup and Italian Cup offered some consolation.

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But a last-16 Champions League exit to Porto was considered a disaster. Juve only snuck into the top-four thanks to Napoli's inability to beat midtable Hellas Verona on the final day.

Pirlo's future, and that of league top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo, have been called into question throughout the season as a result of the underperformance.

"I 100 per cent see myself on the bench of Juventus next season, but it is not me who decides," a bullish Pirlo said.

TOP-FOUR FIREWORKS

Milan began the season in superb form, going unbeaten for the first 15 league matches and leading the standings until Week 22.

However, a subsequent dip in form eventually led to Stefano Pioli’s side requiring a 2-0 win at Atalanta on the final day to end its eight-year wait to return to the Champions League.

Milan's eventual second-place finish was a fair reflection of its season as a whole, as the Rossoneri spent only three weeks of the 38 outside the top four.

The Atalanta fairytale continued as the Bergamo club, with the 11th-highest budget in Serie A, qualified for the Champions League for a third consecutive season.

Napoli suffered heartbreak on the final day as it failed to beat Verona, allowing Juventus to pip it to take a Champions League spot.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

Napoli suffered heartbreak on the final day as it failed to beat Verona, a result that would have guaranteed it a Champions League place.

The 1-1 draw saw it slip to fifth, and club owner Aurelio De Laurentiis announced the departure of coach Gennaro Gattuso soon after the game.

Lazio and Roma finished sixth and seventh respectively, but the latter has re-energised its fanbase with the surprise appointment of Jose Mourinho for next season.

At the other end of the table, relegated Crotone and Parma suffered seasons to forget, and Filippo Inzaghi's Benevento will join it in Serie B next term.

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