MILAN ( Associated Press) – Milan ended their season just as they ended their Italian champion campaign with a brace from Olivier Giroud.
Goals in Germany’s 2-1 friendly win against Cologne were no less important than his brace against Sassuolo, who sealed the Serie A title nearly two months earlier. But it was a comforting sign for Giroud & Co.
Juventus and Inter Milan strengthened after repurchasing two of their great rivals, Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku, respectively, so Rossoneri’s challenge to retain the Scudetto will be more difficult.
A repeat of Abhishek will give Milan their 20th Serie A title and the right to put a second star on their jersey. Teams get one star for every 10 titles.
They could also overtake neighbors Inter, the 19-time league champions. Juventus widely lead the historic table with 36 coronations.
“Getting a second star and of course a 20th title was one of the first things that (manager Paolo) Maldini and (Frederic) Massara told me,” said Milan striker Divok Origi. “We will do whatever it takes to make this a reality.”
Origi from Bruges and young Belgian midfielder Charles de Catelair have been Milan’s main acquisitions this summer.
He also made permanent the transfers of Alessandro Florenzi and Junior Messias. At the same time, French youngster Yasin Adali returns to Bordeaux after a player is on loan.
Although De Catellare does not have the same line-up of players that his rivals had signed, Milan insisted on a formula of youth and experience that worked to end an 11-year drought. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who will turn 41 in October, also renewed his contract for a year.
Ibrahimovic and Giroud already had the satisfaction of celebrating the title. But for the vast majority of Milan’s youth squad, the 2021-22 Scudetto was their first sip. And it feeds your appetite. Many shortened their holidays and started training ahead of time.
The impressive results in a pre-season friendly seem to have worked, including a 5-0 loss to Wolfsburg and a 2-0 win against French runners-up Olympique de Marseille on Sunday.
“We understood how important it is to prepare ourselves personally, how difficult it is to win, what it takes to stay at the highest level and I see the boys are more prepared for the season, even. That with a greater attention to detail”, assured the coach of Milan Stefano Pioli. “I believe this is a cycle that has just begun and not one that is about to end.”
Massimiliano Allegri returned as Juventus manager last year – two years after he was fired. But Bianconeri was fourth without lifting a single trophy for the first time in 11 years.
Juve chased down nine league titles, a streak that ended in 2021 when they were sidelined by Inter, leading to the sacking of coach Andrea Pirlo.
Now, the Turin club are confident that Pogba’s return after a disappointing spell with Manchester United will help them build on their pride. But there is no respite for the French midfielder from injuries, which threaten to miss the World Cup and a significant part of the season.
Pogba suffered a knee injury during one of the first training sessions with Vecchia Signora. He could have surgery that certainly solves the problem, but that would mean staying away from the courts until 2023. The alternative is less invasive treatment, which has a shorter recovery time, but which may not be as effective.
Juve also signed Argentine midfielder Angel Di Maria, who was released after seven years with Paris Saint-Germain, and Brazil defender Gleason Bremer from hometown rivals Torino.
Appears as the most careful opponent to Inter Milan,
After losing the title to their city rivals, Inter turned to the transfer market to fulfill manager Simone Inzaghi’s goal of preparing a team for the pre-season.
Inter signed midfielders Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Kristjan Aslani as well as goalkeeper Andre Onana. But his biggest takeover was Lukaku, a year after he moved to Premier League side Chelsea.
Lukaku will certainly be forgiven if he takes Inter back to the title.
The Belgian striker scored 47 goals in 72 Serie A games in two seasons with Inter and formed a formidable pairing with Argentina’s Lautaro Martínez – Lula – who was instrumental in the Nerazzurri winning the title for the first time in history in 2021. 11 years.
Roma, Napoli and Atalanta could create a surprise in the fight for the title, although there are only five Scudets between them. The most recent was the one Roma acquired in 2001.
In the first year under Jose Mourinho as manager, Roma won the Europa Conference League title – the capital club’s first trophy in 14 years.
Mourinho and Roma have high ambitions for this season. They are looking for a top four finish and a ticket to the Champions League after finishing sixth in Serie A last season.
But, cautiously, Gialorosi could have aspirated more after signing Argentine attacker Paulo Dybala, ex-Juventus.
Nor can Napoli be ruled out if the southern club manages to remain in contention for the title throughout the season.
It looked like he was going to give two Milan teams a run for their money last entire season, but a mid-season slump dented his ambitions. They finished third, seven points behind Rossoneri.
However, Napoli will have to deal with the departures this year of captain Lorenzo Insigne, their record goalscorer, as well as midfielder Dries Mertens, defender Kalidou Koulibaly and goalkeeper David Ospina.
After completing three consecutive years, Atalanta’s eighth place must have been a disappointment to some. But it gives manager Gian Piero Gasperini the freedom to focus on Serie A without the distractions of the European Cups.
Atalanta has never won a scudetto and qualifying for the Champions League has been a major achievement for the team from the small town of Bergamo, less than 50 kilometers from Milan.
To beat their illustrious neighbors for the title would be a feat beyond the wildest dreams of their fans.