From Ronaldo to Roma: Serie A’s tops and flops
Milan (AFP) – The 2018/19 Italian Serie A season finished on Sunday with Juventus once again crowned champions for the eighth straight year and 35th time in their history.
AFP Sport looks at the tops and flops of the league campaign in Italy:
Ronaldo keeps Juve at summit
Cristiano Ronaldo’s surprise arrival from Real Madrid for 100 million euros ($115 million) last summer was hailed as the final piece in the jigsaw to bring the Champions League title back to Turin. The 34-year-old’s presence was not enough to finally end the team’s 23-year Champions League wait, but he played a key role in their run to the Scudetto with a record-equalling five games to spare, leading the way as the team’s top scorer with 21 league goals in 31 games, but missing out on the top scorer crown.
Sampdoria veteran Fabio Quagliarella had an unprecedented season at the age of 36, after much of his earlier career was blighted by a harrowing nightmare involving a stalker. The striker finished the season as the Serie A top scorer with 26 goals, three better than Duvan Zapata. Quagliarella last January equalled Gabriel Batistuta’s mark of scoring in 11 straight games, achieved by the Argentine in 1994. His bid to overtake the record ended with a 3-0 defeat at his former club Napoli, but his stunning form earned a recall to Roberto Mancini’s Italy after nine years out, becoming the oldest player to score for the national side in March.
Atalanta join the big boys
Unheralded Atalanta have been the standout team of the season with a first-ever Champions League qualification in the club’s 111-year history.
Gian Piero Gasperini’s side’s success comes with a group of relatively unknown players powered by a dynamic midfield including Marten de Roon, Timothy Castagne, Remo Freuler and Robin Gosens.
The team’s high-pressing style of football, often compared to Dutch side Ajax this season, stands out from the slower game favoured in Serie A. The team had the best strike force in Serie A with 77 goals scored, more than Juventus, spearheaded by Duvan Zapata, Papu Gomez and Josip Ilicic.
Not vintage Roma year
Eusebio De Francesco was sacked after the club’s European exit to Porto in the last 16 with former coach Claudio Ranieri seeing out the last three months of the season in which they finished sixth.