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The Athletic FC: Heaven and hell in Italy’s title climax; Man Utd in talks over Disney documentary


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Hello! Lautaro Martinez is on the crossbar. A new star is on Inter Milan’s shirt

Coming up:

👑 Inter take Serie A crown on AC Milan’s night from hell

🔓 Access all areas at Man Utd academy, Disney to follow?

🖊️ Emery signs new Villa deal, Amorim in West Ham talks

💭 Players dreaming of lifting the title… before they’ve won it

Heaven for Inter, hell for Milan

(Alberto Lingria/Xinhua via Getty Images)

Those stars you see on a team’s shirt, directly above the crest? Italian football was first to adopt them, back in 1958 when Juventus won their 10th domestic title.

Ten ‘scudetti’ (Serie A titles) earned a club one star and as champions on 36 occasions, Juve were the only side in Italy with two or more on their chests. Until last night.

Inter Milan have joined them in that exclusive bracket after winning Serie A for the 20th time, and in the best way possible — against AC Milan at San Siro, their rivals’ worst nightmare made real.

Inter were champions-in-waiting for weeks, and the stars were aligning for their moment to come in the last Milan derby of the season.

Milan’s captain, Davide Calabria, promised it wouldn’t happen: not at San Siro, not on this night. But it did — and Calabria took it well. His fate was a red card in stoppage time for elbowing an opponent in the face.

Keeping the (tattoo) receipts

Two years ago, Milan won their 19th scudetto in their final game, narrowly beating Inter to top spot. Milan coach Stefano Pioli did what any normal person would do — went into town and got a tattoo of the trophy on his wrist.

Inter did not forget that. They kept receipts. And since then they have been taking Milan to the cleaners. Milan lost the derby for the sixth time in a row last night. They took a 5-1 hiding from Inter in September.

Technically, Inter were away from home last night, a quirk of sharing a stadium, so San Siro was mostly filled with Milan fans.

You’ll be surprised to hear tensions ran high. Milan’s Theo Hernandez and Inter’s Denzel Dumfries were sent off for a scuffle (below), not long before Calabria saw red at a corner in the 97th minute. The ridiculous thing? It cost Milan their last chance of an equaliser. Goalkeeper Mike Maignan had gone up for the corner in desperation. Not their night.

(Non-UK readers can see the incident here)

Inzaghi shining bright

The inside track on Inter’s title win, a brilliant read by James Horncastle, makes the point that their boss, Simone Inzaghi, rode some rough seas on the way to it.

It’s his first scudetto as a manager, and it alters his reputation as a cup specialist. Inter ran Manchester City close in last season’s Champions League final — and there’s a view in Italy that the strength of Inter’s performance in Istanbul set them up mentally for a title bid.

They’ve got a secret weapon up their sleeve too: CEO Giuseppe Marotta who, having rebuilt Inter after joining from Juve in 2018, has been part of a title-winning club in nine of the past 13 Italian seasons. No wonder they joke about Serie A being the Marotta League.

It’s rare to get the access that Andy Mitten was given at Manchester United’s academy.

Not so long ago, it was failing to match the best of the best in the Premier League (ie, Manchester City). Andy was one of those who criticised it, which is why he was invited to go and see recent changes.

One thing he learned? Don’t ask for pudding after lunch…

NEW: Inside Man Utd’s Academy. Part two: Creating players and people

Amorim’s meeting with West Ham

The Premier League’s managerial merry-go-round is on the verge of firing up. Jurgen Klopp is leaving Liverpool but there are questions over others too: Erik ten Hag, Mauricio Pochettino, Roberto De Zerbi. Not to mention West Ham United’s David Moyes.

West Ham are clearly weighing up options — because as The Athletic’s David Ornstein revealed, they met with Sporting Lisbon coach Ruben Amorim in London yesterday.

Amorim led Sporting to a first Portuguese title in 19 years, so his stock is high. Rumours that he already had a verbal agreement in place with Liverpool were premature.

Title talk: How do players deal with pressure?

April is the season of the cliches in title races. One game at a time, control the controllables, focus on yourself — doubtless the mindset of Arsenal when the face Chelsea in the Premier League tonight.

But surely that’s easier said than done? The memories of Premier League title winners Alan Shearer and Robert Huth suggest it is:

🗣️ “Literally every time I got in the car after training, I imagined lifting the trophy.”

🗣️ “They’ll tell us they have no interest in what the other teams are doing. Let me tell you something: it’s bulls***.”

The lesson here: they’re human like the rest of us.

📺 Arsenal vs Chelsea, 3pm ET / 8pm UK; USA Network, TNT Sports 1

📲 LIVE blog

Around The Athletic FC

🌳 More on Nottingham Forest’s VAR rant. They want full audio disclosure. And said VAR — Stuart Attwell — has been selected for Euro 2024.

🇪🇸 Not to be outdone, Barcelona have threatened to request a replay with Real Madrid over a contentious decision in Sunday’s Clasico.

You can buy tickets to your favorite global football matches here.

(Top photo: Mattia Ozbot – Inter/Inter via Getty Images)

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