Andiamo: Why Both Milan Clubs Will Actually Challenge Juventus for the Serie A Title This Season

?Italian football has been enjoying a renaissance of late, and objectively had the best title race of any of Europe’s top five leagues last season. Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli side ran Juventus as close as they could, and after Kalidou Koulibaly’s last minute winner against the Old Lady in April, harboured genuine hopes of upsetting I Bianconeri’s monopolistic apple cart. 

Unfortunately, despite collecting an unprecedented 91 points, I Partenopei once again fell short to the domineering side from Turin, before promptly losing their greatest ever manager and one of their most important players. In the same summer, the seven-peat Serie A champions have brought in the winner of the last two Ballon d’Or – making the title race a forgone conclusion. 

Or so they thought.

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Because, undeterred by their conglomerate backed ‘?World Tribe’ of a rival, both Milanese clubs have set to work on closing the gap – now seemingly vacated by the Neapolitans – between themselves and their #contajus counterparts. 

[As an aside, if you were wondering, it was at the exact moment that hashtag was created that modern football ventured beyond the point of no return.]

The cross-town adversaries have both plugged major holes across the pitch, but it’s probably ?Inter who have made the most waves. Naturally, the eye-catching captures of Radja Nainggolan and Stefan De Vrij (for a lopsided combined fee of around £33m) from opposite sides of the Italian capital have provoked the most buzz.

The duo have been lingering around the top of the Serie A power rankings for their respective positions for some time now, and should slot seamlessly into Luciano Spalletti’s starting XI. The Dutchman was the central fulcrum of Lazio’s back three last season, and could end up occupying the same role this time, if the pre-season’s experimentation with a 3-4-1-2 is anything to go by, but would be equally comfortable in the coach’s standard 4-2-3-1 formation. 

Having coached Nainggolan through the best season of his career in 2016/17 at Roma – the Belgian had a direct hand in 21 goals that year – Spalletti will be all too aware of the impact he can have, and his system is ripe for accommodating such a player.

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But you could argue that it is the additions of the energetic Lautaro Martinez and Keita Balde that could be the most transformational. Too often last season, Inter were languid in possession, their patient build up verging on the pedestrian and predictable, mainly thanks to a lack of pace across the midfield and front-line. 

Save for Ivan Perisic, there was very few outlets on the counter for Il Biscione, and thus the slow progression in attack was necessary. The newfound, and considerable, pace of Monaco’s Keita Balde should help counteract this issue, while Lautaro Martinez’s burgeoning relationship with Mauro Icardi should aid the Argentinian from getting too isolated. 

His record of seven goals in seven – albeit largely irrelevant – pre-season games hints at his goalscoring chops as well, though the Gabigol caveat remains. 

Throw Croatian World Cup starlet Sime Vrsaljko into the mix, and the overwhelming takeaway from their summer moves can be comprised by the wealth of options they now possess. While last season’s starting XI practically picked itself, the contractually renewed manager has a wide variety of players and system he could deploy, something he’ll undoubtedly exploit to great effect.

Turning the focus from Inter to their San Siro siblings, the differences in intent and direction seem worlds apart. With Inter’s hopes resting on tactical astuteness and execution, as well as a blanket level of experience, the red half of Milan is encompassed by passion, and a daring mixture of young and old.

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Though Ronaldo’s signature was seismic in it’s impact across the league, you could argue that the Leonardo Bonucci swap deal with Gonzalo Higuain and Mattia Caldara is more significant in the grand scheme of things. Juve clearly have their reasons for bringing back the one-time deserter, but it’s hard to escape the fact that I Rossoneri have emerged superior from it.

The Argentine striker has been the most successful goalscorer in ?Serie A since his arrival in Naples in 2013, and there’s no club more suited to such a player than Milan, who’ve been strikingly absent of a decent striker for far too long. 

Snagging Caldara, who is definitively one of the league’s most precocious defenders, is equally impressive, and most ?Milan supporters would tell you he’s actually an upgrade on Bonucci. The slightly lower key gratuitous acquisition of Pepe Reina will surely aid the development of Gianluigi Donnarumma, as well as providing a much-needed wise ahead amongst the litany of youngsters. 

Of course, part of the problem with Il Diavolo in recent times has been an over-reliance and over-use of the transfer window to solve issues. In this vein, it is probably an off the pitch addition that has raised the most eyebrows in Italy, in regard to their chances. 

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After years of rejection, the 18 time Scudetto winners have finally convinced club legend Paolo Maldini that the current project is worthy of his involvement, with the 50-year-old becoming the club’s Director of Strategic Development. This was presumably in turn thanks to the financial turmoil that has ravaged them being quelled by the intervention from Elliot Management, saving the European blushes with the same brush.

Admittedly, it would be naive to outline the shrewd business done by both sides in Milan without acknowledging the additional work done by I Bianconeri – Emre Can and Joao Cancelo stand out as two figures who will make a tangible difference to the existing squad. 

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But there is also a discernible air of Champions League challenger surrounding them at the minute. After years of outwitting their opponents with long-term thinking, ?Juventus have opted for short-term fixes this time around. Obviously, Ronaldo is a 33-year-old the like of which the world has never seen, but he is still 33, and you would forgive him for duly prioritising those massive European nights that he’s explicitly been brought in for. 

It is precisely that European focus that will entice the two Milanese giants, offering them legitimate hope that this emerging Serie A renaissance can spark a new age of success for at least one of the sleeping Italian giants.

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Conflicting Reports on Luka Modric as Real Director Claims Croatian is ‘Happy’ in Madrid

?It is still unclear whether ?Inter intend to sign Luka Modric from ?Real Madrid before the Italian transfer window shuts on Friday, with conflicting reports muddying the waters.

The Croatian has been strongly linked with a move to the San Siro this summer, and may be tempted by a new challenge after winning 4 Champions League titles in an incredible six-year spell with Madrid.

Before the UEFA Super Cup final against ?Atletico Madrid, Real director Emilio Butragueno told Movistar+ television that Modric was content to stay at the Santiago Bernabeu.

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“There is no issue with Modric, he’s happy to continue with us,” he said, quoted by ?Marca.

?Sky Sports Italia still insists that Modric and his representatives are pushing for a move away from the Spanish capital and will plead with Real to let him leave on Thursday.

Florentino Perez is not easily swayed though and he will not want Modric to leave after a damaging summer in which three-times Champions League-winning manager Zinedine Zidane and record goalscorer ?Cristiano Ronaldo both left the club.

Real might allow Modric to leave if they had a suitable replacement, but that too seems doubtful as their top target ?Christian Eriksen is valued at €200m by Tottenham Hotspur.

In the Galactico era, Real frequently spent large sums on high-profile players, but that is unlikely to be repeated under the current transfer policy ?with Perez reportedly reluctant to spend more than €100m on a p?layer.

Modric came on as a second-half substitute on Wednesday night, making his first competitive appearance since losing the World Cup final with Croatia.

The Croatian was again on the losing side as Real lost 4-2 in overtime, earning Atletico the first European silverware of the new season.

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Wanda Nara Unafraid to Criticise Husband Mauro Icardi After Taking Punditry Role

?Wanda Nara, wife of ?Inter striker Mauro Icardi, says that she will have no qualms about criticising him or the club in her new role as a pundit for Mediaset.

Nara, who is also Icardi’s agent, will appear on the football show Tiki Taka, which airs every Monday on Italia 1.

Despite admitting to being an “Inter fanatic”, Nara said that she would not let her allegiance to the club or her love for Icardi sway her judgement.

Atletico Madrid v FC Internazionale - International Champions Cup 2018

“Mediaset called me for years, but I’ve accepted them now because I can,” she told ?Corriere della Sera.

“Isabella, my youngest daughter, begins nursery in September, so I’ll have a few more hours free.

“After that, Mauro is often at home on Monday nights. We’ve decided together, he agrees with it and he’s happy.

“I’m an independent woman, I’ve always worked and I don’t want to depend in any way on a man, even my husband, whom I love.

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“I’m an Inter fanatic, but I’ll be neutral. I’ll improve my knowledge about the other teams, plus my friends and professionals will help me.

“Criticising Mauro on TV? What’s the big deal?”

Nara will not have much reason to criticise Icardi if he performs like he did last season, when he was the Serie A top scorer with 29 goals. Inter travel to Sassuolo this Sunday in their first match of the new campaign.

Nara and Icardi have been married since 2014 and they have two young children aged 3 and 1.

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Brazil Legend Ronaldo Confirms He’s ‘Back Home’ After 4-Day Stay in Hospital

Brazilian legend Ronaldo Nazario is back home, having been discharged from hospital after being admitted as a result of pneumonia.

The former ?Real Madrid galactico spent four days at medical facilities, firstly being taken to a hospital in Ibiza, Spain and then getting transferred to the Intensive Care Unit of a private establishment.

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Ronaldo has since taken to social media to thank fans who wished him well, as well as the medical personnel who looked after him during his unfortunate ordeal.

Hello, everyone! I’m home after a few days at the clinic,” he wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday. “Thank you for your love and comments and many thanks to the team of doctors and nurses for your kindness and hospitality. 

“Thank you @celinalocks for being by my side in every hour. It’s going to be a very nice season and full of magnificent football and surprises.”

The former striker, now 41, helped Brazil win two World Cups. He also won the Ballon d’Or on two occasions and played for five clubs in Europe during a remarkable career that could have been even more illustrious had it not been for serious injuries.

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Inter Coach Luciano Spalletti Signs New 3-Year Contract Until Summer of 2021

?Inter coach Luciano Spalletti has committed his future to the club by signing a new three-year contract that promises to keep him at the club until the end of the 2020/21 season.

Having taken charge of Inter last summer, Spalletti oversaw a fourth place finish in Serie A in his debut campaign, resulting in the club’s return to the Champions League for the first time since reaching the Last 16 of the competition five years ago.

“I want to thank the Zhang family and the club for giving me the chance to extend my contract,” the 59-year-old told Inter.it.

“I would also like to stress that the signature was merely official confirmation of what was already in place, as my desire to continue fighting together for the good of this massive club was never in doubt,” he added.

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“We’ve always had a relationship based on respect and mutual trust. Our daily discussions have made it clearer than ever that we want the same things for this club and its fans. Today we have strengthened the club’s shared ambitions.”

Inter director Steven Zhang commented: “During the 110th year of the club’s history, we made many good decisions in order to put the club on the right track, and today we start the season by sealing our relationship with Luciano Spalletti.”

“Last season, Mr Spalletti and his staff were able to improve the team and take Inter back to Europe’s biggest competition. This demonstrates the hard work and commitment our coaching staff puts in.

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“We are pleased to extend our contract with Mr Spalletti and continue our efforts to build one of the top teams in the world of football. Today’s agreement shows our strong confidence in him and the long-term solidarity of the group.”

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