MILAN, Italy, May 21 – The 2017/18 Italian Serie A season finished on Sunday with Juventus crowned champions for the seventh straight year and 34th time in their history.
AFP Sport looks at the tops and flops of the league campaign in Italy:
– Tops –
The 50-year-old Juventus coach once again proved to be the master strategist despite criticism for orchestrating a style of play deemed less attractive and exciting than rivals Napoli.
Allegri nevertheless kept one step ahead of his rivals with a chameleon side which he changed 37 times in 38 games to fit their rivals.
In addition to winning the psychological battle against Napoli, Juventus boasted the top defence with just 24 goals conceded, finishing with 95 points, second only to Antonio Conte’s 102 with the Turin side in 2014.
Allegri has won the league and Cup double in each of his four seasons with the Turin giants becoming the first coach in Europe’s top five leagues to do so.
Ciro Immobile, Mauro Icardi
Lazio’s Immobile and Inter’s Icardi finished the season as joint top Serie A scorers with 29 goals.
In the midst of the gloom surrounding Italian football after their failure to qualify for the World Cup, Immobile enjoyed a period of renaissance with the Roman side.
The 27-year-old followed up his excellent 2016-17 season with 29 goals from 33 games, despite a right thigh injury seeing him miss much of the end of the season.
Inter captain Icardi was similarly hampered, by a knee injury from January, but accounted for nearly half of his side’s 66 goals, and on Sunday claimed his 100th for Inter as he helped them to snatch the final Champions League berth at the expense of Lazio in the Stadio Olimpico.
The 31-year-old Argentina forward proved a star performer for Juventus despite facing criticism during a lean period without scoring.
The former Real Madrid player arrived for a club-record 90 million euros from Napoli two years ago, and has scored 55 goals in two seasons.
His 16 in Serie A this season included the winner in the last-gasp 3-2 win against Inter Milan which proved the hammer blow to Napoli’s title ambitions.
Chain-smoking coach Sarri came close to leading Napoli to a third Serie A title after 1987 and 1990 but in the end lost the psychological match with Juventus.
After beating Genoa in mid-March, Sarri said: “If it were down to me, I’d go all the way to the Palace and take power.” The Palace, as he saw it, was the Allianz Stadium in Turin. And Napoli successfully stormed it in April with their first win at Juventus in nearly a decade.
It was to be the high point of the title challenge as Napoli failed to win their following two games and, despite amassing a club-record 91 points, Sarri’s future at the San Paolo Stadium is now in doubt amid criticism his starting 11 had become too predictable.
Napoli finished runners-up for the second time in Sarri’s three seasons.
– Flops –
Andre Silva, Nikola Kalinic
AC Milan front men Silva and Kalinic both proved expensive flops after arriving as part of the club’s 200 million euro transfer splurge last summer, fuelled by their new Chinese owners.
Portuguese international Silva, 22, joined from FC Porto for 38 million euros plus bonuses, but scored just two goals.
Croatian international Kalinic, 30, arrived from Fiorentina for 25 million euros but could only muster six goals in 30 appearances, including one in Sunday’s final game against Fiorentina.
Benevento’s miracle promotion to Serie A last year quickly turned to a nightmare for the minnows from outside Naples.
They made history by becoming the first European team to lose 14 league games in a row before claiming a first point in a 2-2 draw with AC Milan in December when their goalkeeper scored in injury time.
The club were relegated with four games to spare.