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Milan’s glory days return

Milan’s glory days return

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Seven years ago, neither of Milan’s clubs made the top four in Italian football. Now, they’re vying for the Serie A title. How have the good times returned to the city?

The English domestic season has been typically entertaining – Manchester City and Liverpool going toe-to-toe throughout the campaign, with Liverpool picking up the FA Cup and Carabao Cup trophies while Manchester City edge the title race.

But across the continent, there has been one title race that has matched it for drama and arguably beaten it for entertainment.

The rivalry between AC Milan and Inter has seen them at the top of the pile in Italian football once again, with both sides vying to win the Scudetto, the Italian Serie A title. 

There are just two points separating them as they go into the final game of the season.

For fans of a certain age, a Milan rivalry is nothing new – after all, they’re two of the most successful clubs, not just in Italy, but in Europe. AC Milan have won Serie A 18 times, Inter have won it 19 times. 

But before Inter pulled off their surprise Serie A triumph last season, Juventus had gone on a run of nine consecutive league titles. 

Juve’s dominance of Italian football had made things… well, boring. In a similar fashion to how things are currently in the German Bundesliga, where Bayern Munich have won their 10th title in a row at a canter.

But then, last season, Inter, helped with the management of Antonio Conte and talent of Romelu Lukaku won an improbable Scudetto, with AC Milan coming second.

The preceding seasons hadn’t been kind to the Milan clubs, and some had wondered whether they’d lost their historic sparkle. 

In 2019, Milan came fifth, while Inter came fourth. Two years before that, AC Milan finished sixth… Inter seventh. The nadir was in 2015, when Inter Milan came eighth, and AC Milan ended tenth.

But the good times have returned to Milan – so, how has it all come about?

Nicolo Barella is a talented young star who has just claimed two winners medals with club and country. He’s returning to a side that’s hobbling, and there’s not much hope that Inter can extend their title-winning run this season. That’s got to be a huge disappointment for one of Italy’s most talented players.  It’s looking precariously close to collapse. 

Playmaker – Tortoise Media

For fans of the Playmaker podcast, you’ll recognise that clip – it was all the way back in episode 11 of the season, where Inter’s troubles were well documented. 

Their owners, Chinese electrical giants Suning, couldn’t fund the team to the level they once had, they sold the aforementioned Romelu Lukaku and Antonio Conte left the club. 

Things were looking particularly bleak – but despite losing some talent, they made some shrewd, inexpensive moves. 

They signed the experienced Edin Dzeko for under €2 million, and he’s gone onto score 17 goals in 48 appearances this season, whilst Inter also signed Hakan Calhanoglu for free from – you guessed it – AC Milan. He’s been one of the best players in Serie A this season, with seven goals and 11 assists to his name. 

Meanwhile, AC Milan, who are searching for their first Serie A title since 2011, have benefited from seeing the fruits of a slow build.

Mixing youth with experience, the league leaders have seen the likes of Sandro Tonali, Rafael Leao, and England international Fikayo Tomori produce their best seasons, whilst elder statesmen Zlatan Ibrahmovic and Olivier Giroud have proved age is just a number, contributing 23 goals and assists between them in the league this season.

Serie A reaches its crescendo this coming Sunday. 

And while AC Milan are hot favourites going into their match against Sassuolo, it’s clear there is already one winner from this season – the city of Milan.

Today’s episode was written by Andrew Butler, and mixed by Gary Marshall.