Inter outlast Roma
Inter Milan clinched their 18th Italian title and fifth in succession on the final day, maintaining their two-point lead over Roma after their tenacious challengers had believed in their chances right up until the final seconds of a thrilling championship race. I Nerazzurri rose to the summit following the tenth round and were only briefly nudged out of pole position by a Giallorossi side who signed off with nine victories in their final ten games.
Having also won the Coppa Italia by seeing off the capital outfit 1-0, Jose Mourinho's men can now look forward to Saturday’s UEFA Champions League final against Bayern Munich dreaming of becoming the first Italian club to do the domestic double and claim Europe's top prize in the same season. FIFA.com reviews the tussle for Serie A honours between Inter and Roma.
The signings of Argentinian forward Diego Milito, Cameroon striker Samuel Eto’o and Dutch playmaker Wesley Sneijder more than made up for Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s departure to Barcelona in the summer as Inter gave serious notice of their intent before a single ball had been kicked. In contrast, Roma spent the summer full of doubt and got their campaign underway with a pair of defeats, going on to find themselves floundering in 12th when their rivals took over at the top in Round 10.
With his side out in front, Mourinho rotated his experienced 25-man squad – including just five Italians – with consummate skill to belie the team’s underdog status against both Chelsea and Barcelona in the Champions League, while closer to home they kept their Serie A challengers at bay. Indeed, when Inter succumbed 2-1 to Roma at the Stadio Olimpico on 27 March to have their lead cut to a single point, the San Siro outfit were simply able to step up a gear to ensure a mouth-watering climax.
As for Roma, runners-up for the sixth time this century and the third time behind Inter, they have become the bridesmaids of the Italian game, still having celebrated only one Serie A crown since 2000.
Behind the front two, AC Milan finished 12 points off the pace but held on to third spot to grab a Champions League group-stage berth. Despite making a noteworthy start to his coaching career, however, Leonardo will not be around to mastermind their bid.
Sampdoria will enter the same competition in the play-offs, returning to the continent’s premier club tournament for only the second time in their history thanks to prolific marksman Giampaolo Pazzini, the rising star of Italian football. Palermo and Napoli sent most of the season in the upper echelons and they earned themselves tickets to the UEFA Europe League, along with a disappointing Juventus side.
Also of note
Juve began the campaign with their eyes on the main prize, only to come in seventh after switching coaches mid-term. I Bianconeri are now about to begin another chapter of their history, with senior figures Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro and David Trezeguet all perhaps heading for the exit and a new coach soon to be appointed.
Genoa experienced frustration, too, as they ended the season in ninth, having not recovered from losing Diego Milito from their attack, while 11th-placed Fiorentina possibly expended too much energy in Europe.
The big names
The forthright personality of Jose Mourinho coloured the entire season as the Portuguese coach homed in on his sixth league crown in seven seasons, having now won two apiece with Inter, Chelsea and Porto. He attracted the limelight for all manner of reasons, with his tactical choices praised for outmanoeuvring Chelsea and Barcelona, and his verbal sparring with Roma counterpart Claudio Ranieri prompting plenty of column inches. Meanwhile, his various disagreements with forward Mario Balotelli, one of Italy’s brightest young talents, stirred passions and his gift of a Champions League final ticket to a young supporter found resonance with the San Siro faithful. Serie A would be an entirely different beast without him, and fans may soon discover if the ‘Special One’ opts to pursue his career elsewhere.
Despite the presence of a whole myriad of talented foreign players in the top division, no fewer than six of the seven highest scorers this season were Italian. Argentina’s Diego Milito came second on the list after an impressive year, but he finished quite some distance behind 29-goal Antonio Di Natale of Udinese – as did Fabrizio Miccoli (Palermo), Pazzini (Sampdoria), Alberto Gilardino (Fiorentina), Francesco Totti (Roma) and Marco Boriello (AC Milan).
Ups and downs
Atalanta and Siena will contest Serie B football next term along with basement outfit Livorno, who lasted only a single campaign among the elite. In the race for promotion to Serie A, meanwhile, with two games to go second-tier leaders Lecce are assured of at least a play-off spot for the third berth, with Brescia and Cesena looking favourites to take the second automatic ticket behind them.
At a glance
1 - Inter Milan, 82 points
2 - Roma, 80
3 - AC Milan, 70
45 – the number of podium finishes Inter have achieved. Crowned champions for the 18th time on Sunday, the Lombardy side have also been runners-up on 13 occasions and come in third 14 times. They are also the only club to have spent their entire history in Serie A.