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UEFA Champions League exits follow a head butt and police raid in rough week for Italian football


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It started with a head butt. A police raid at AC Milan followed. Then Serie A champion Napoli and last season’s finalist Inter Milan were eliminated from the Champions League on consecutive nights. It’s been a rough week for Italian soccer.

Inter Milan’s Benjamin Pavard and Davide Frattesi look dejected after the match (REUTERS)

A year after there was a Milan derby in the semifinals of Europe’s top club competition and Inter gave Manchester City a serious challenge in the final, not one Italian club has advanced to the quarterfinals.

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The same thing happened two seasons ago when Juventus was eliminated by Villarreal and Inter fell to Liverpool in the round of 16.

On Tuesday, Napoli was ousted by Barcelona on 4-2 aggregate. Then on Wednesday, Inter lost a penalty shootout to Atletico Madrid.

Also this month, Lazio lost to Bayern Munich on 3-1 aggregate.

Since neither Lazio, Napoli nor Inter lost the first leg, the final results stung even more.

Considering its perfect record in 2024, a big lead atop Serie A and its performance in Europe last season, Inter had the highest hopes for the Champions League.

But when it came down to Lautaro Martinez — Inter’s most prized and reliable forward — to convert his spot kick and keep the shootout alive, the Argentina international blasted his shot high over the bar.

After his miss, Lautaro immediately turned around and glared at the spot as if something bothered him.

“The squad is not used to losing. The defeat burns, because we won the first leg,” Inter coach Simone Inzaghi said. “The details make the difference and we missed three chances in extra time.”

The losses also affect Italy’s chances of earning a fifth team in next season’s expanded Champions League. With the top two finishers to get an extra team in, Italy still leads this season’s rankings but risks being passed by Germany and England, which qualified two teams each for the quarterfinals.

This week’s Champions League games were preceded by the ugly scene of Lecce coach Roberto d’Aversa appearing to head butt Hellas Verona forward Thomas Henry after a match between two Serie A clubs fighting to avoid relegation on Sunday. D’Aversa was fired and banned for four matches — a suspension he’ll have to serve if he’s hired by a new club.

On Tuesday, Milan’s offices were raided by police as part of an investigation by Italian prosecutors into the sale of the seven-time European champion.

RedBird Capital Partners purchased Milan from fellow American firm Elliott Management in August 2022, but Milan prosecutors claim Elliott still owns and controls the Italian club. Both RedBird and Elliott claim the allegation is false.

Milan didn’t advance out of the Champions League group phase, finishing behind Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain.

Juventus, meanwhile, was banned from Europe this season for breaking financial rules.

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