AC Milan started pre-season in the same way they ended their title-winning campaign, with two goals from veteran forward Olivier Giroud.
The goals in a 2-1 friendly win in Cologne fell well short of the double against Sassuolo that won Milan the Serie A title 55 days earlier, but it was a good sign for Giroud and his team-mates.
Title rivals Juventus and Inter Milan managed to get back Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku respectively, making Milan’s challenge to retain the title even more difficult.
A successful run would be Milan’s 20th Serie A title, giving it another star on its shirt as Italian teams are awarded one for every 10 league titles.
The team will also look to surpass local rivals Inter, who have won the title 19 times. Only Juventus have more with 36 league titles.
“The goal is to get the second star and thus the 20th title, that was one of the first things that (directors Paolo) Maldini and (Frederick) Massara told me,” Milan forward Duke Origi said. “We will do our best to make it possible and obviously it will be a great result.”
Origi is the only new player Milan have signed so far in the off-season, although the club have made the loan signings of Alessandro Florenzi and Junior Messias permanent and French youngster Yassin Adly has also returned from his loan spell at Bordeaux. .
More significantly, however, Milan appear to be on the verge of completing the signing of talented young playmaker Charles de Catellier from Club Brugge.
While the 21-year-old Belgian midfielder may not be as big a name as some of his rival signings, it looks like Milan will stick with the combination of youth and experience that has seen them end their long wait for the title. I helped. Zlatan Ibrahimović, who turns 41 in October, has also renewed his contract for another year.
Ibrahimović and Giroud have already won several trophies. But for many of Milan’s young team, the league title was their first taste of success. And that has only whetted their appetites, with many cutting their holidays short and returning to pre-season training ahead of schedule.
That seems to have worked with some impressive results in friendlies, including a 5-0 thrashing of Wolfsburg and a convincing 2-0 victory over French league runners-up Marseille on Sunday.
“We finally understand our importance and we understand how important it is to prepare ourselves well, how hard it is to win, what we need to be at a high level, so I want the boys for this season. Looking even more prepared.” Milan coach Stefano Pioli said with more preparation and attention to detail. “I believe this is a cycle that has just begun and not one that is going to end. “
Massimiliano Allegri returned as Juventus coach last year – two years after being sacked – but the Bianconi ended the season without a trophy for the first time in 11 years.
The storied club won nine league titles in a row until 2020 and even under Andrea Pirlo’s disappointing charge, the team won the Italian Cup and the Italian Super Cup.
The Bianconi were hoping that Pogba could recapture the glory days following his return from Manchester United. But the France international has been plagued by injuries and could be out until the New Year, missing the World Cup as well as a significant chunk of the season.
Pogba suffered a knee injury during one of his first training sessions back at Juventus and now faces the decision of whether to opt for surgery which should surely fix the problem but not until 2023 or so. Less invasive treatments with shorter recovery times may be seen but may not be as effective.
Juventus have also signed midfielder Angel Di Maria as a free agent after seven years at Paris Saint-Germain and defender Gleeson Bremer from city rivals Torino as they aim to improve on two straight fourth-place finishes.
Inter looks set to be Milan’s main challenger.
After losing the title to their city rivals, ending their long wait last season, Inter rushed into the transfer market to fulfill coach Simone Inzaghi’s aim to have his squad ready for the start of pre-season. moved from
Inter signed midfielders Henrik Mkhitaryan and Kristian Aslani and goalkeeper Andre Onana, but most importantly they brought Lukaku back a year after moving to Chelsea.
And Lukaku will be quickly forgiven if he leads Inter back to the title.
Lukaku scored 47 goals in 72 Serie A appearances in his two previous seasons with Inter and formed a formidable partnership with Lautaro Martinez – nicknamed “LuLa” by the Italian media – which has led to the Nerazzurri’s move to the Nerazzurri in 2021. Helped win the league for the first time in 11. The year
Napoli, Atalanta and Roma could also be deep horses for the title, although all three have claimed just five Scudettos between them, with the most recent being Roma’s Serie A win in 2001.
In Jose Mourinho’s first year in charge, he led Roma to the Europa Conference League title — the club’s first trophy in 14 years.
Mourinho and Roma have even higher ambitions this season. After finishing sixth in Serie A last season, they are aiming for the top four and a Champions League place.
But the capital club can quietly hope for even more, especially after the marquee signing of former Juventus forward Paulo Dybala.
Napoli cannot be ruled out either, if the team manages to maintain their title challenge throughout the season.
It looked set to lead Milan teams last campaign before a mid-season slump ended its title hopes. The team eventually finished third, seven points behind the Rossoneri.
However, Napoli will also have to deal with the departures of captain Lorenzo Ingini and all-time leading scorer Dries Mertens as well as defender Kalidou Koulibaly this year.
After three consecutive third-place finishes, Atlanta’s eighth-place finish last season will be a disappointment to some. But that leaves Gian Piero Gasperini’s side coached free to focus on Serie A without the distraction of the Champions League or any European football.
Atalanta, who won the Serie B in 2011, have never claimed Italian football’s top prize and a place in the Champions League is already held by a team from the small city of Bergamo, less than 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Milan. was seen as an incredible success for .
Beating their more famous neighbors to the Serie A title would be a feat beyond the wildest dreams of most fans.
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