Title-Winning Conte Says ‘Ciao’ As Inter Milan Dream Ends In Cash Row

From L) Inter Milan’s Vice-President Javier Zanetti, Inter Milan’s President Steven Zhang, Inter Milan’s Italian coach Antonio Conte, Inter Milan’s Sports Coordinator Gabriele Oriali and Inter Milan’s CEO Giuseppe Marotta hold the Scudetto Trophy as Inter players and staff celebrate winning the Serie A 2020-2021 championship after their last Italian Serie A football match Inter Milan vs Udinese on May 23, 2021 at the San Siro stadium in Milan. MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

 

Antonio Conte parted company with Inter Milan on Wednesday just days after lifting their first Serie A title in 11 years amid clashes with the club’s cash-strapped Chinese owners on the way forward.

The ambitious Italian refused Suning’s planned cost-cutting which would have prevented him from building the team he wanted to challenge at home and in Europe.

The former Chelsea and Juventus boss took over in May 2019 on a three-year contract worth a reported 12 million euros ($14 million) annually.

But the 51-year-old leaves the San Siro one year early, Inter confirming “an agreement has been reached with Antonio Conte for the termination of his contract by mutual consent”.

Inter Milan’s Italian coach Antonio Conte shouts instructions during the Italian Serie A football match Inter Milan vs Udinese on May 23, 2021 at the San Siro stadium in Milan.
MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

“Antonio Conte will forever remain a part of our club’s history,” the statement added.

Severing Conte’s contract has cost the club a reported seven million euros ($8.5 million), while his final year’s salary would have been around 12 million.

As part of the deal Conte will not be allowed to coach another Serie A club next season, according to reports.

Among the names being touted to replace him are Lazio boss Simone Inzaghi and former Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri, who has also been linked with a return to the Turin club.

For Conte, future destinations could include Tottenham Hotspur and Real Madrid.

‘Like a war zone’

A demanding coach, whose training sessions were described by Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku as ‘like a war zone,’ Conte leaves Inter at the summit of Serie A, a feat last achieved by Jose Mourinho, who won the treble with the club in 2010.

It was a fifth league title for Conte having won three with Juventus between 2012 and 2014 and the Premier League with Chelsea in 2018.

But tensions had been ongoing, having already threatened to leave last summer after losing the Europa League final to Sevilla and finishing second in the league to Juventus.

Despite a second Champions League group stage exit this season Inter clinched their 19th Scudetto with a 12-point lead on AC Milan and with four games remaining.

“This is one of the most important successes of my career,” Conte said.

“Deciding to join Inter was not easy, the team was not equipped to win immediately.

“Furthermore, the opponent was Juventus for whom I had worked for a long time. Today we can say that our sacrifices have paid off.”

Conte rebuilt the ‘Nerazzurri,’ getting the best out of players including former Manchester United star Lukaku, Lautaro Martinez and Nicolo Barella, while others like Christian Eriksen and Ivan Perisic overcame initial difficulties to adapt to Conte’s style.

Captain Samir Handanovic and Lukaku both paid tribute to Conte on social media.

“You came at the right time and basically changed me as a player and made me even stronger mentally,” said Lukaku, Inter’s top scorer the past two seasons.

“Winning is all that matters to you. Thank you for all you did. I owe you a lot.”

Slovenian Handanovic, 36, who won his first trophy after nine years with the club, added: “You were the one who always raised the bar and put the right pressure on everyone… the one who made the difference. Thanks mister.”

Financial woes

Inter registered losses of 100 million euros ($122 million) last season mainly due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Suning Group shut down their Chinese club Jiangsu FC in February months after winning the Chinese Super League title.

Five days ago, Inter secured a cash injection worth 275 million euros with US investment firm Oaktree, in the form of a loan reported to be over three years.

In this context, Suning wants to save as much as possible both on the purchase of new players and salaries, and possibly selling those with the highest value, an approach unacceptable for Conte.

Conte’s three-year spell at Juventus remains the longest of a career already spanning seven clubs, and the Italian national team.

He took Bari and Siena into Serie A, began Juventus’ nine-year domination of the Italian top-flight, guided an unfancied Italy to the semi-finals of Euro 2016 and won the Premier League in his first season at Chelsea.

But he has never tasted European success, falling short with both Juventus and Chelsea before his near-miss with Inter.

AFP

Ronaldo Overtakes Pele, Tops World Goalscoring List

 

Cristiano Ronaldo hit back at his critics with a quick-fire hat-trick as Juventus brushed aside Cagliari 3-1 on Sunday, five days after their Champions League elimination, while Inter Milan moved nine points clear at the Serie A summit.

Portuguese star Ronaldo bore the brunt of the criticism for Juve’s latest European flop after failing to score in either leg of the last-16 defeat by Porto, while also being partly at fault for what proved to be the goal that knocked them out.

But the 36-year-old scored a header in the 10th minute at the Sardegna Arena, added a second from the penalty spot 15 minutes later, and completed a ‘perfect’ treble on 31 minutes with a fine left-footed strike.

Defending champions Juventus are 10 points behind leaders Inter Milan, who beat Torino 2-1 earlier Sunday, but with a game in hand.

Andrea Pirlo’s side pulled just one point behind second-placed AC Milan, whose title hopes took a big hit following a 1-0 home defeat to Napoli.

“Our approach was spot on and it was important to get off on the right foot after being knocked out the other night,” said Pirlo.

“Ronaldo was angry like the rest of the team. He reacted like a true champion.”

He could also have been sent off after a quarter of an hour, receiving only a yellow card for dangerous play as his boot struck Cagliari goalkeeper Alessio Cragno in the face while attempting to meet a Federico Chiesa cross.

Ronaldo is the leading scorer in Serie A with 23 goals this season, ahead of Inter’s Romelu Lukaku, who has 19.

His career tally is now 770 goals, overtaking Brazil legend Pele’s 767 scored in official matches which he matched earlier this month.

Before kick-off, Juventus chief football officer Fabio Paratici dismissed talk about Ronaldo’s future with the club.

“It makes me laugh. I would never have imagined discussing the value of Cristiano Ronaldo,” said Paratici.

“It’s a privilege to have him with us, he’s part of our future.”

Inter pull clear of Milan

Lautaro Martinez scored a brilliant 85th-minute winner in a tight game against 18th-placed Torino to keep Inter on track for a first league title since 2010.

Antonio Conte’s Inter once again needed their strike duo of Lukaku and Martinez to find a way to win in Turin.

Christian Eriksen came off the bench on 56 minutes and had an immediate impact, playing a part in the move which resulted in Torino defender Armando Izzo fouling Martinez in the penalty area.

Lukaku fired home the resulting spot-kick in the 62nd minute.

Inter looked to be wobbling when Antonio Sanabria pulled Torino level eight minutes later, finishing off goalmouth scramble.

But Martinez snatched the victory by getting his head to an Alexis Sanchez cross for his 14th league goal this term.

Inter stretched their winning run to eight matches to move further ahead of AC Milan.

“Victories like these are crucial,” said Inter assistant coach Cristian Stellini, with Conte serving a touchline ban.

AC Milan’s hopes of a first title since 2011 diminished as they failed to win for their third consecutive game at the San Siro, days before they host Manchester United in their last 16 Europa League decider.

Matteo Politano scored the only goal just after the break with Milan finishing the game a man down after Ante Rebic was sent off in injury time for arguing with officials.

Napoli’s Champions League hopes have been revived as they move above Roma into fifth before the two sides play next weekend after the capital side fell 2-0 at 19th-ranked Parma.

Valentin Mihaila opened the scoring on nine minutes with Hernani added a second from the spot to snap Parma’s 17-match winless run.

AFP

Ronaldo Silenced As Porto Knock Juventus Out Of Champions League

 

Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus crashed out of the Champions League in the last 16 for the second year running on Tuesday, losing to 10-man Porto on away goals despite winning the second leg 3-2 in Turin.

Sergio Oliveira’s extra-time free-kick sent twice former winners Porto through to the quarter-finals as the tie finished 4-4 on aggregate.

Leading 2-1 from the first leg in Portugal, Oliveira’s first-half penalty increased Porto’s advantage but Juventus levelled the tie through two goals from Federico Chiesa, which came either side of Porto striker Mehdi Taremi’s red card.

Oliveira then rifled home a low free-kick on 115 minutes, which passed through the legs of Ronaldo, with Adrien Rabiot’s header in reply coming in vain for Juventus.

“When you make four big errors over two legs in the Champions League last 16, you can get eliminated,” said Juventus coach Andrea Pirlo.

“It will take a few days to wipe this game from our minds, but then we must play every game with the right attitude, realise we’re still only in March and have time to climb the Serie A table.”

Juventus had been counting on Portuguese striker Ronaldo, the competition’s record goalscorer, and in-form Spaniard Alvaro Morata, who had scored six goals in the competition this season, to pull them through.

But Juventus’ Champions League heartache stretching back 25 years continued, falling in the first knockout round the second consecutive year after losing to French club Lyon last season.

“The work of the whole team was important to go through in a manner that was fully deserved,” said veteran Porto defender Pepe.

“It’s hard to explain by words the way we managed to react (playing with 10 men). Today we showed lots of character: the players were focused and that made it easy for us.”

Pirlo, in his first season as Juventus coach, had regained several injured players including midfielder Arthur and defender Leonardo Bonucci, but captain Giorgio Chiellini remained on the bench with Danilo suspended.

Porto goalkeeper Agustin Marchesin produced a sharp early save to turn away a Morata header, while Taremi nodded against the crossbar at the other end in a lively start to the game.

The Italian champions fell behind on the night when Merih Demiral conceded a penalty after bundling over Taremi in the box, with Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers pointing to the spot.

Oliveira made no mistake, sending Wojciech Szczesny the wrong way to give the visitors a 3-1 advantage overall.

Marchesin continued his heroics, the Argentine blocking from Morata on 26 minutes and Rabiot minutes later after the French midfielder took aim from distance.

Chiesa revives Juve hopes

Juve hit back after the break thanks to Chiesa’s double, the first on 49 minutes when Ronaldo controlled and knocked it back for Chiesa to curl in past Marchesin from a tight angle.

Porto soon went a man down with Taremi sent off for two quick yellow cards, the second for recklessly kicking the ball away.

Despite the Iranian’s absence Porto managed to hold on, with Pepe intervening brilliantly to force Chiesa into striking the post after rounding Marchesin.

Chiesa made no mistake just after the hour getting his head to another perfect Juan Cuadrado cross which Marchesin again got a hand to but could not stop as Juve pulled level 3-3 on aggregate.

Ronaldo missed a chance to add to his tally of 134 Champions League goals after heading a Cuadrado delivery wide with 12 minutes to go.

It was end to end action with Marchesin denying Chiesa a hat-trick, while Morata had a goal ruled out for offside in injury time before Cuadrado was desperately unlucky to see his curling shot smack back off the bar.

Porto had the best chance of the first 15 minutes in extra time with Szczesny blocking a Moussa Marega header.

But Oliviera won a free-kick and fired in low to beat Szczesny on 115 minutes amid wild celebrations from the Portuguese bench.

Two minutes later Rabiot headed Juventus back into contention but the hosts could not snatch another goal as their European adventure ended prematurely once more.

AFP

Lyon Hold Off Juventus To Reach Champions League Quarter-Finals

 

Lyon qualified for the quarter-finals of the Champions League on Friday despite losing 2-1 to Juventus in Turin.

A goal up after winning February’s first leg, French side Lyon will face Manchester City at the final tournament in Lisbon after drawing 2-2 on aggregate and going through on away goals.

Lyon squeezed past the Italian champions thanks to Memphis Depay’s 12th-minute penalty which put Rudi Garcia’s side two goals ahead in the tie and left Juve with a mountain to climb.

READ ALSO: Man City Pounce On Varane Mistakes To Dump Out Real Madrid

Needing to score three unanswered goals in order to go through, Cristiano Ronaldo tried his best to drag the Italian champions over the line.

He levelled the scores on the night with a penalty of his own with two minutes left in the opening period before crashing a second home on the hour mark.

However Juve performed poorly and Lyon managed to hold on to set up a clash with Pep Guardiola’s City, who put out 13-time winners Real Madrid, on August 15.

AFP