Inter Milan clinched their first Serie A title in 11 years, ending Juventus’ nine-year domination as champions of Italy.
Antonio Conte’s side got their hands on the trophy with a 2-0 win over Crotone on Saturday, but Atalanta’s 1-1 draw at Sassuolo on Sunday left the Serie A leaders with a cushion 13 unassailable points with four matches to lose.
The three points, thanks to goals from Christian Eriksen and Achraf Hakimi, have already ended Juventus’ nine-year cycle which was started by Conte himself in 2012 and continued by Max Allegri and Maurizio Sarri last season.
Inter have only seen defeat twice this season – two 2-1 defeats in the Milan derby in October and at Sampdoria in January, the latter followed by a continuing streak of 18 games unbeaten that has left them allowed to win 14 victories, including 11 consecutive. .
Conte’s side snatched the top spot from AC Milan on February 14 and have held it ever since, with a 3-0 triumph over their cross-city rivals in February, making them the runaway leaders late in the season. season.
Juventus were due to compete for the title again, but endured a scorching season under Andrea Pirlo with their place in next season’s Champions League still on the line.
Stefano Pioli’s AC Milan looked like the closest contenders and led the table over Christmas, but they failed to keep up with their spectacular early-season form and have now also slipped into the top four in the fights of dogs.
Analysis: Conte returns to finish what he started
Tommaso Fiore of Sky Sports …
The coveted Scudetto puts an end to the NerazzurriThe ten-year trophy drought and represented their first league title since 2010 when Jose Mourinho led a team including Samuel Eto’o, Wesley Sneijder and Patrick Vieira to a Serie A, Coppa Italia and Champions League hat-trick.
Twelve different managers, including Claudio Ranieri, Walter Mazzarri and Roberto Mancini, took the reins at San Siro over the next nine years, but the club languished in Serie A, finishing as low as ninth, failing to reach a major final and enduring an absence of six years. of the Champions League.
It was Luciano Spalletti who brought the club back onto the big European stage, but much of the credit goes to Conte. He ensured that one of Italy’s greatest sleeping giants could finally return to its former glory, instantly leading them to second place and their first European final in ten years.
Yes, he arrived with a high degree of expectation and was positively supported in the transfer market, but he quickly identified the strengths and weaknesses of the team and successfully developed a recognizable style of play that has so often marked the achievements of his career – based on a resolute resolution. defensive and devastating counterattacks.
However, it was not easy. A lackluster performance in the derby loss to Milan and draws against Parma and Atalanta took them to a seventh place in November. To make matters worse, Conte suffered a humiliating elimination from the Champions League, finishing last in a group with Real Madrid, Borussia Monchengladbach and Shakhtar Donetsk – whom they failed to even score twice against. .
So, given the depth of the Inter squad and their lack of European commitments, the Serie A title was not only seen as the main goal, but a necessity to transform a season otherwise. ruinous in a very successful season. They did it in a remarkable way, winning the victories in a convincing and meritorious way, as the big teams do.
Conte remains the architect but the influence of Romelu Lukaku, Hakimi and Nicolo Barella – the best striker, fullback and midfielder in Italy – cannot be underestimated. After a lot of frustration Eriksen also managed to secure himself a regular starting place and it is only fitting that his goal at Crotone is now designated as the clincher of the Scudetto.
It could also perhaps be the start of a turnaround in European fortunes. Next year Inter will take part in the Champions League group stage draw in pot 1, so it is now imperative for the club to talk about the future with Conte and ensure that the club continues to grow rather than wither.
How Lukaku inspired Inter to win the title
“I haven’t forgotten how a lot of people turned their noses when we signed Lukaku and said he was overrated,” said Antonio Conte after the victory over Sassuolo. “But I always said he came here with potential and if he worked hard he could do amazing things. Lukaku has made amazing improvements and can do more.”
Romelu Lukaku has been a revelation at Inter. With 21 goals this season, he is the team’s top scorer and the key player to ending Juventus’ nine-year domination of Italy.
For the man himself, this is his first league title since he was a teenager at Anderlecht and a proven point after his exit from Manchester United. At 27, he responded to these criticisms which focused on his limits. He did it by eliminating them.
Read more from Sky Sports Adam Bate on Lukaku’s incredible Inter influence