Serie A: Highs and lows of 2019-20 season

Milan (AFP) – Serie A concluded on Sunday after a marathon 11-month 2019-20 season, with Juventus crowned Italian champions for the ninth year in a row.

Here, AFP Sport takes a look at the highs and lows after the final weekend of the campaign:

Juve hit 10-year low

Juventus were crowned champions for the 36th time, but wrapped up their season with the lowest number of points of their nine-season title run.

Maurizio Sarri’s side finished with 83 points — their lowest tally of the past decade — with their most number of defeats for a single season in that time with seven.

The Turin giants won just two of their final eight matches, with Saturday’s 3-1 defeat to Roma their first loss at their Allianz Stadium home since April 2018.

They also conceded 43 goals, more than in any of their previous eight title successes.

“Considering all the problems we had this season which was unlike any other, we can be happy to have won,” said Sarri.

“It was a season in which the strongest could have lost.”

Conte fury at Inter’s Chinese owners

Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan ended up finishing just one point behind fierce rivals Juve in second, their best placing since 2011.

But Conte’s future has been thrown into doubt after his outburst following Saturday’s 2-0 win over Atalanta in Bergamo which enabled them to snatch second place.

“It has been a tough year on a personal level, very tough,” said the former Juve, Chelsea and Italy coach, who was angered at perceived media criticism of him and his team.

“We had to eat crap for months and got zero protection from the club.

“There will be discussions with the president (Steven Zhang), but he is in China.

“I can be a lightning rod for the first year, but if you don’t learn and keep making the same mistakes that’s just crazy.”

Atalanta surge

Atalanta returned even stronger after the three-month lockdown in which the team’s city of Bergamo was at the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic.

Gian Piero Gasperini’s exciting side scored 98 goals — 35 after the return — with Colombians Luis Muriel and Duvan Zapata scoring 18 each, and Josip Ilicic 15.

Atalanta finished the season third, matching last season’s all-time best finish.

They still have plenty to play for too, as they face Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League quarter-finals in their debut season in the competition.

Immobile top, but Lazio fall short

Ciro Immobile equalled Serie A’s single-season scoring record but Lazio fell short in their bid for a first league title in two decades.

The 30-year-old Italy international scored in a 3-1 defeat at Napoli to match Gonzalo Higuain’s record of 36 goals, set while playing for Napoli in the 2015-16 season.

Immobile also wins the European Golden Shoe for the continent’s top scorer this term.

“Winning the Golden Shoe is a source of great pride, to go down in the history of this sport,” said Immobile, who scored seven goals in his last five games including a hat-trick.

Lazio finished fourth to return to the Champions League for the first time since 2007.

Zlatan rolls back the years

Zlatan Ibrahimovic became the oldest player to score 10 goals in a Serie A season as AC Milan finished  the campaign on a 12-game unbeaten run for the first time in nearly three decades.

The 38-year-old, who joined Milan in January, scored his first goal at Cagliari and ended the campaign scoring against the Sardinians in a 3-0 win at the San Siro.

The seven-time European champions moved up from 11th in January to sixth and qualified for the Europa League.

Balotelli flops amid racism storm

Mario Balotelli’s return to hometown club Brescia was a flop with the Italy international also subjected to racism.

The 29-year-old former Manchester City and Liverpool striker was targeted by racist abuse at Lazio and Verona, where he threatened to walk off the pitch.

Verona were given a one-match partial stadium closure, which was later suspended on appeal. Lazio were fined 20,000 euros.

There was also controversy during the season surrounding Serie A’s anti-racism campaign which featured three images of monkeys.

Balotelli scored just five goals as Brescia returned to Serie B after just one season in the top flight.

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