Milan is the champion
While everyone admires how tight the battle for the championship in England was, as well as another Manchester City title, the triumph in Italy, where everything was also decided at the last moment, was a bit overshadowed. However, Milan had a two-point lead over Inter in the final round, and even a draw in the final meeting with Sassuolo on the road would have suited the Rossoneri. The Nerazzurri needed to beat Sampdoria.
Inter coped with their task by beating the Genoese 3-0. And all three goals were scored within an eight-minute span from the 49th to 57th minute. But by that time the Italian Nerazzurri hardly believed in their success as AC Milan had led 3-0 at the end of the first half. At halftime, Inter players must have taken a look at their rival’s performance. The result was hardly encouraging for them. But they did their best in any case.
11 years later
This championship title is incredibly valuable for AC Milan. “The Rossoneri are undergoing a quality transition with it. After all, for several years in a row, this club has been mocked by many. At Milan’s attempts to build something powerful and vibrant, at the failures, at the destruction of plans and the construction of new ones.
It seemed that the Rossoneri had launched a cycle with no end in sight – Manchester United and Arsenal fans will understand the feeling. And now the block has been lifted. Yes, Milan would have deserved a different perception and appreciation, even if it had been only second. But the only way to enjoy the return of a great club was to win the league title.
The last time Milan won the Italian championship was in the now distant 2011. It was a completely different team. Although it has something in common with this Milan – Ibrahimovic in the squad. Yes, then he was also in Milan and won the championship. Since then, Zlatan has lived a whole separate life in soccer. He managed to become a legend at PSG, made some noise at Manchester United and even caused turmoil across the ocean by playing brightly for the Los Angeles Galaxy.
And in 2020 he returned to AC Milan, where nothing serious was expected of him. But even in this season, when Ibrahimovic was rarely in the field because of health problems, the spirit of the mighty Swede seemed to charge the team. Not without reason during the broadcasts directors caught him almost more often than the head coach.
And this triumph will be a beautiful point in the incredible career of Ibrahimovic, although in the biography of the Swede it is already the 32nd title and the 12th champion. He has won Serie A three times with Inter, twice won the Italian championship with Juventus, but those titles have been annulled. He won the French championship four times with PSG, won with Barcelona in Spain, with Ajax in the Netherlands, twice.
Curiously, for AC Milan coach Stefano Pioli the trophy was the first in his coaching career. Previously, he has worked with Fiorentina, Lazio, Bologna, Palermo and Inter. For AC Milan, the title is also important from the point of view that it was the 19th in Serie A. The Rossoneri have caught up with Inter on the number of titles.
Only Juventus, with 36 titles, are a distant second. If we talk about trophies in general, then Milan also had to wait a long time. The previous “rossoneri” took in 2016, when they won the Italian Super Cup, beating Juventus.
Milan’s history is also appealing because there are no pronounced stars in the club’s lineup to drag all the way. Everyone stepped in at the right moment and took responsibility for helping out. Ibrahimovic, already mentioned, encouraged with the coach, and sometimes shone on the field – at a critical moment he could help out. Leau, Kessier, Rebic, Hernandez – that’s the essence of AC Milan, that’s its strength.
The story with the goalkeepers is particularly telling. “The Rossoneri clung to the star Donnarumma, who eventually left for PSG, having previously exhausted all their nerves. It seemed that the option of bringing in Meninhoen from Lille was an attempt to plug a hole with a player convenient from a market point of view, who has no bright press outside of France, where before Mick became champion.
But what do we see? This season, Menyant is by all accounts showing more spectacular numbers than Donnarumma at his best. Menyant is not as hyped, not as well known, but he fulfills his main task – Mick is perfectly integrated into the team, into its emotional and game structure. Both parts are incredibly important because in such a tight race, psychology often comes to the forefront. How many stories we know of when teams burned out and let everything out of their hands. Just look at Arsenal, who wasted their chances against Tottenham and ended up out of the Champions League.
Coming together at the right moment
In England, Liverpool and Manchester City were neck and neck, and every point they lost was sensational. That’s not what happened in Italy. Here, the two Milan clubs did not dominate so completely. They lost points more often, experiencing very different stretches of the season. The initiative changed hands. The question was who would be the last to falter and allow their opponent to take the lead.
Inter did. It happened five rounds before the end of the season. In the match against Bologna, when the Milanese took the lead after a quick goal and at the end of the game conceded twice and lost. Then it seemed that there would still be a chance. But since that match, both Inter and Milan have been without a loss. Inter’s winning streak at the finish line was four games, while AC Milan were more focused, with a streak of six games.
And if you look more broadly? Milan have lost four points in the last ten rounds of the league after two consecutive 0-0 draws against Bologna and Torino. It might have seemed like the team had run out of steam. But it leaned on the shoulders of its defense, led by Menyon, and took a breather, after which it made a run for the finish. “Inter lost five points in the same stretch of ten rounds – in addition to losing to Bologna there was a draw with Fiorentina (1-1).
We can see that the final part of the championship was held in the mode of chewing out an advantage by a point. If we talk about the distance of the whole season, there were no significant crises for AC Milan. Occasionally, there were double matches with the loss of points. The only crisis was from early November to the end of December. Then, in six rounds, the Rossoneri won only twice, drew twice and lost twice.
Inter suffered a similar crisis later in the season. But it was more significant and played a key role. In nine rounds from the beginning of February to the end of March, Inter won only two matches, lost twice and allowed five draws. That’s when Inter lost their likely strategic advantage.