Can Juve reclaim Serie A title from Inter?

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August 23, 2021
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    Split image of Cristiano Ronaldo in action for Juventus, Italy's Giovanni Di Lorenzo and Tammy Abraham training with RomaAfter Italy's European Championship success, eyes turn to Serie A where Cristiano Ronaldo remains with Juventus and Tammy Abraham has moved to with Roma

    Italy has enjoyed a summer basking in Euro 2020 glory – but there's plenty of drama in Serie A with the new season about to kick off.

    Champions Inter Milan are in turmoil, Cristiano Ronaldo has rubbished rumours he will join the league exodus and Jose Mourinho is back in the game.

    A compelling campaign awaits, with managers looking to prove points and add to trophy hauls, Juventus bidding to reclaim the title and two clubs – plus some big-name bosses – making significant top-flight returns.

    Serie A is the last of Europe's five major leagues to kick off, and BBC Sport looks at its big storylines – now with added British interest, following Tammy Abraham's move to Roma.

    The summer break-up of champions Inter

    Inter celebrate titleInter surpassed city rivals AC Milan by winning a 19th Serie A title last season

    In May, fans celebrated at Milan's iconic Piazza del Duomo in Milan as Inter ended an 11-year wait for a 19th Scudetto.

    By August, those same supporters were protesting against the club owners and defacing a mural outside the San Siro of Romelu Lukaku,external-link their player of the season, as he prepared to re-join Chelsea.

    His was the latest in a series of high-profile exits following their title triumph.

    Antonio Conte left his role as manager in late May, three weeks after guiding Inter to the Scudetto.

    The cost-cutting demanded by Inter's Chinese owners Suning was said "not to be compatible" with the combustible Italian's goals.

    Right-back Achraf Hakimi, who scored seven goals and provided eight assists in his solitary and hugely impressive season at the San Siro, was sold to Paris St-Germain in July with Belgium striker Lukaku moving on a month later.

    The Milanese club will also be without Christian Eriksen as he continues his recovery after collapsing during Denmark's opening match at Euro 2020.

    Simone Inzaghi, who won three trophies as Lazio boss, has taken charge of the champions and done some shrewd business.

    Inzaghi recruited midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu from city rivals AC Milan and signed former Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko from Roma on free transfers, wing-back Denzel Dumfries was bought from PSV Eindhoven and central defender Zinho Vanheusden came in on loan from Genoa.

    Martinez next? Ronaldo to follow?

    Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro MartínezRomelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martínez contributed a combined 41 goals and 17 assists last season

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    And still, on the eve of the new season, transfer speculation hangs heavy over Inter with Lautaro Martínez – the other half of last season's devastating strike partnership alongside Lukaku – being heavily linked with moves to Tottenham and Arsenal.

    It has been a transfer window of high-profile exits from Serie A.

    AC Milan failed to keep Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, as the European Championship's player of the tournament moved to Paris St-Germain on a free transfer, and Serie A defender of the season Cristian Romero left Atalanta for Spurs.

    And there have been rumours about Ronaldo leaving Juventus ever since the night in March that he turned his back on a free-kick by Porto's Sergio Oliveira, the ball going through his legs and into the net, and his team going out of the Champions League.

    Earlier this week, the five-time Ballon d'Or winner criticised media reports linking him with a move away, but did not verbally commit his future to Juve, or deny outright that a move was possible.

    The two biggest fees paid for players by Serie A clubs this summer have been for England internationals – Roma spent £34m on Tammy Abraham, while Fikayo Tomori's move to AC Milan was made permanent for about £25m.

    Juve add another Euro 2020 winner to line-up

    Italy celebrate the winItaly have won their sixth major tournament title (four World Cup, two Euros); among European nations, only Germany (seven) have won more

    Nicolo Barella and Alessandro Bastoni, who both featured for Italy in their Euro 2020 triumph, remain at Inter.

    But it was Juventus, winners of nine Italian titles in a row before their reign was ended by Inter last season, who were the club best represented in Roberto Mancini's squad.

    And now Federico Chiesa, Federico Bernardeschi and the defensive pillars of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci have been joined by another Euro 2020 winner in Manuel Locatelli, who joined from Sassuolo on Wednesday.

    Still, Sassuolo – the minnows who have established themselves in Italy's top flight – have kept hold of forwards Domenico Berardi and Giacomo Raspadori after finishing eighth last season.

    Ciro Immoible goal scoring graphic

    Mourinho, Sarri, Allegri and the managerial merry-go-round

    Three managers with title-winning pedigree are back in Serie A – Mourinho, Maurizio Sarri and Massimiliano Allegri. Indeed, each won the Scudetto the last time they managed in the Italian league.

    Mourinho won an unprecedented treble of Champions League, Serie A and Coppa Italia in his last season at Inter in 2010. Now he has taken on the job at Roma, who were last champions two decades ago and have not won a trophy in 13 years.

    The Portuguese manager, sacked by Tottenham in April, quickly made his presence felt in Rome – riding round the club's training ground and defending his Premier League record by saying he was judged unfairly in relation to other managers.

    "What is a disaster for me would be an amazing achievement for others," he said.

    Lazio head coach Maurizio Sarri and Roma manager Jose Mourinho, Juventus boss Massimiliano AllegriLazio head coach Maurizio Sarri and Roma manager Jose Mourinho, Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri

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    Also in the Italian capital, Lazio replaced Inzaghi with Sarri, who oversaw Juve's title success in 2019-20 before he was sacked.

    It was Juventus' ninth title in a row and one that the 62-year-old said was "taken for granted".external-link

    Juve finished fourth last season under rookie manager Andrea Pirlo, who was sacked and replaced by Allegri, who won five successive titles, oversaw four Coppa Italia triumphs and reached the Champions League final twice during his five years as boss between 2014 and 2019.

    In total, 12 Serie A sides have changed manager since last season.

    Atalanta's Gian Piero Gasperini and Stefano Pioli at AC Milan are the only two to keep their jobs from the sides that finished in the top seven in 2020-21.

    Long-awaited returns and delayed promotions

    When Venezia held on to beat Cittadella in the Serie B play-off to clinch promotion to Serie A, they ended a 19-year absence from Italy's top flight.

    On the world renowned waterways of Venice, the team celebrated on a gondola.

    As for Salernitana, their 23-year wait to return to Serie A was put on hold for two months because of ownership issues.

    The club, based in the port city of Salerno on the Amalfi coast, shared the same owner with Lazio, Claudio Lotito, which breached competition rules.

    It wasn't until July that Italian football authorities allowed Lotito to transfer club shares to a blind trust, and approved Salernitana's Serie A registration.

    Still, the club start their long-awaited return to the top flight knowing they must be sold by 31 December or risk expulsion from the league.external-link

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    August 23, 2021
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