Italian giant Inter Milan has won the Seria A, ending the 11-year trophy drought that has seen its rivals, Juventus winning for nine years.
A Saturday win at Crotone put Inter 13 points clear with four games to go, buoyed by Atalanta’s 1-1 draw at Sassuolo on Sunday.
Since 2010, when Jose Mourinho won both Serie A and the Champions League, Inter has been on the sideline watching the scudetto reside in Turin season after season, under the tutorship of various coaches including Conte himself in 2012, continued by Max Allegri and Maurizio Sarri last term.
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The cycle has been broken by Antonio Conte who started it, and probably paves way for a future of intense competition in Serie A.
It has been nine years of struggle for the San Siro side who has, within this period, had Twelve different managers including Claudio Ranieri, Walter Mazzarri and Roberto Mancini. The years saw the club dropped to the ninth place in the league, failing to reach a major final and enduring a six-year absence from the Champions League.
“I’m astonished,” said Conte.
“We’re breaking up a dynasty. Not even in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that we’d make up this much ground on the team that dominated Serie A for nine years in the space of two seasons,” he added.
“This is one of the most important successes of my career,” the 51-year-old told Italian television station Rai.
“Deciding to join Inter was not easy, just when the team was not equipped to win immediately.
“Furthermore, the opponent was Juventus for whom I had worked for a long time, who had dominated for nine years. Today we can say that our sacrifices have paid off,” he said.
It has been a spectacular season for Inter Milan, turning the table after a long streak of failures that put fans in dismay.
Inter lost only two matches in the season, Milan derby in October and at Sampdoria in January. Ever since then, the club has witnessed an ongoing 18-game unbeaten run resulting in 14 wins, 11 of them in a row.
Chinese electronics retailer Suning Holdings Group took a majority stake in 2016, after billionaire Massimo Moratti, whose family controls Italian oil refiner Saras Group, sold to a consortium led by Indonesian business tycoon Erik Thohir in 2013. The decision to sell the club stemmed from an overwhelming financial crisis and has turned the fortune around for the Milan giants. Inter becomes the first Chinese-owned side to win one of Europe’s big five leagues and the first foreign-owned side to win the Italian title.
The city of Milan went up in ecstasy as fans gathered in the main square in front of the cathedral to celebrate.
“We are, yes, we are. Champions of Italy. We can finally scream it, after dreaming of it, after keeping it hidden in the depths of our hearts, after holding on to it like a precious dream that we did not want to waste,” read a lengthy statement on the Inter website.
Club president Steven Zhang, son of Suning owner Zhang Jindong described the win as “emotional” moment and thanked the fans and staff for their support in a lengthy statement.
“It’s emotional, and a special time for everyone involved in this project and who has been with us on this journey,” Zhang said.
“Thanks, first of all, to the fans, to those that work with us and obviously to our coach Antonio Conte and to the players, who have worked so hard to bring this title home.
“Furthermore, I want to thank the employees and directors, the two managing directors, who have supported me this year and the five years previous. All those who have been a part of this project, who have worked with us not only this year but also in the past. I think that they are all part of this Scudetto and that this title belongs to all of them. A massive thank you to all of them.
“A special thank you to my father and to Massimo Moratti, who has guided me throughout the years, supported me from an emotional and mental standpoint and helped me to understand what Inter is,” Zhang said.