Napoli win the Scudetto

Napoli team celebrate winning the scudetto.

A resilient Napoli had to fight tooth and nail to claim the elusive Scudetto they last tasted when Diego Maradona was still playing for the club 33 years ago. The line-up announcer, Daniele Bellini, nicknamed ‘the Decibel,’ was only six years old when he last experienced the feeling of winning the Serie A title. He had to grow up, attend hundreds of matches, secure a job as a line-up announcer, and work for several years before finally tasting the trophy again. While reading Napoli’s line-up, he broke down when he realized how close they were to win the trophy. Napoli’s journey towards winning their 12th Scudetto screams one word; patience. 

The Coveted but elusive piece of silverware

For the past eight seasons, Napoli had only been seeing the Promised Land from a short distance. Finishing 2nd on four occasions is enough proof that Napoli has been a force to reckon with in Serie A. The trophy was elusive even when the Uruguayan beast, Edinson Cavani, banged goals for the club during his prime years. Even a front three of the speedy Dries Mertens, the dribbling Jose Callejon, and the exciting left-footed Lorenzo Insigne could only manage a second-spot finish. Kalidou Koulibaly came to be considered one of the best defenders in the world while at Napoli, but the Senegalese wall had to depart from the club before tasting the Serie A.

The comeback

Juventus have been the most dominant Serie A side in the past decade and took the biggest share of the Scudetto. Inter Milan and AC Milan have also struggled to make a comeback to the scene by winning a scudetto each. Napoli has decided to make the league even more interesting by taking a different approach. Finally, this has paid off, with the coveted silverware returning to Naples. History has been made at the club, with the names of these heroes set to be engraved in the hearts of the Napoli fans for centuries to come.

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Spalletti does it where the Greats failed.

Napoli fans celebrate following their historical win of the Scudetto.
Napoli fans celebrate following their historical win of the Scudetto. Photo Credits: Napoli Official

When Luciano Spalletti took over the squad from Genaro Gattuso on the 1st of July 2021, few would have guessed that he would be the man to break the jinx and bring the title back to the football-loving community of Naples. The community had been craving this piece of silverware and had to always hold on to the Diego Maradona era for solace while their rivals were fighting for the titles. Respected European football managers like Mazzarri, Benitez, Sarri, and Ancelotti had all tried but unfortunately failed to live up to the dream. Like a code that is hard to crack, Napoli winning the Serie A proved to be an uphill task.

A new look Napoli; the key arrivals and departures

Spalletti took in the challenge with several star players having left and more still joining other clubs. Some key departures included Koulibaly, Fabian Ruiz, Arkadiusz Milik, Ounas, Ospina, Mertens, and former captain Lorenzo Insigne. This was a breed of exciting players who only managed a 2nd place finish. The arrivals included little-known players like Victor Osimhen, Kim Min Jae, Zambo Anguissa, Khvicha Khvaratskhelia, and Raspadori. Spalletti has made the players rise from grace to the top of the world by offering performances that have seen them rated among the top 5 best European clubs this season.

Kim-Min-Jae, nicknamed ‘the Monster’ celebrates alongside Napoli fans following them winning the Scudetto. The player has been a wall at the back for the Scudetto winners. Photo Credits: Napoli Official

How brilliant individual performances helped Napoli win the Scudetto

Individually some key player performances have stood out this season. These players have been more outstanding than the others and have posted beautiful statistics. Kim Min Jae has won the most number of duels in the league. With goalkeeper Meret also playing his role, they have amassed 16 Serie A clean sheets. Midfielder Zielinski has contributed massively to the goals by scoring three and assisting seven. Forward Khvicha, from the little-known Dinamo Batumi, has scored ten goals and assisted 12 in an impressive campaign. Nigerian attacker Victor Osimhen has also shown prowess and scored 22 goals for the club while leading the Serie A golden boot race. 

All these performances have contributed to a satisfying season for Napoli, who aim to go for the Champions League next season. The Naples will buzz with energy as they now believe again that they can make themselves the footballing powerhouse they once were. Naples is breathing fine football, and rightfully so.

The scramble for top four spots in Serie A

Napoli players celebrating a past win in Serie A

The Serie A top four race is taking shape as Napoli are carving themselves out as the clear favorites to win the league. With the league being considered a done assignment by Napoli who are having an impressive 75 points lead. 6 other top clubs are fighting for the coveted champions league spots. Maurizio Sarri’s side Lazio have been impressive this season and have maintained the second spot for the past few weeks. They have amassed 61 points from 31 games.

Lazio have beaten all odds and have played their cards well as they aim to make a comeback to the champions league where they last appeared seasons ago. Juventus are in third spot after their initially deducted points were granted back to them. Juventus had been deducted 15 points after breaking some key Serie A rules but recently they have been granted back the points that have pushed them back to 3rd position. They currently have 59 points.

AC Milan or Roma, who misses out?

Rafael Leao celebrating his goal for AC Milan. Photo Credits: Serie A

AC Milan complete the fourth spot with 56 points gained, same as Roma who have an inferior goal difference and who have taken position five. AS Roma lost the chance of joining the top 4 after losing to Atalanta 3-1 during the last game week. Atalanta are now in 6th position, 4 points off the top. Inter Milan are in 5th position after securing three points away at Empoli over the weekend.

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Juventus would have taken the second position but unfortunately lost their home game to Napoli courtesy of a late Raspadori strike. Lazio also lost at home to Torino and failed to consolidate their second place.

The top four race in Serie A is still open with  five clubs fighting to join the lethal Napoli side in next season’s competition. The clubs whose cards will be played well will be the winners of the day. Seven more game weeks will determine the top four. Who will taste Champions League football next season?

Are Juventus on their way to win their 9TH consecutive League title?

After a glorious 4-1 victory against Torino today, the Italian giants, Juventus are now at 75 points, 7 points ahead of Lazio who are at position two at 68 points with a game at hand. Their absolute domination for years in that league is now a cliché and the club might as well be on their way to win their 9th consecutive league title. They have won 24 out of 30 league games, drew in 3 and lost 3 matches.

Performance-wise they haven’t been that good compared to other seasons. This season their gameplay has seemingly changed after they hired their new manager, Maurizio Sarri. Pundits have criticized his tactics claiming it kills their counter attacking abilities. The club got knocked out of all their domestic cups and are currently focusing on winning the league and the UEFA Champions League. Their main man Cristiano Ronaldo alongside other key players are in good form and are positive about winning the Scudetto. 

The Portuguese forward scored his first free kick goal in Serie A and assisted the second goal by Juan Cuadrado.The Old lady winning a second league title with him as their main striker is an advantage to his achievements considering he was the first player to ever win the English Premier League,La Liga and the Serie A title. The Bianconeris will be away as they play AC Milan next on Tuesday July 7th at Stadio Guisseppe Meazza in Milano, Italy. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Lazio Set to Sign Manchester City Playmaker David Silva

Lazio Set to Sign Manchester City Playmaker David Silva

According to Sky Sports  Italia and the Guardian, Lazio have plans of signing Man City playmaker David Silva this summer.

Silva has played over 400 games for Man City in the last ten years he has been at the club. He played his final Premier League match against Norwich in July where they won 5-0 at the Etihad Stadium.

In his last game for Man City in the Premier League, he said: 

“I have enjoyed the ten years here, today was the last game in the Premier League, but now we have to be focused on the Champions League.

“It was emotional, I have been here for ten years, I love all of the players and staff, we have a good relationship and I am going to miss all of them.

“I couldn’t imagine winning so many titles in the way we did when I first came here. I am a lucky guy; I’ve had a lot of nice moments. I will miss everything, even the weather!”

He is currently a free agent but will still play for Man City in the ongoing Champions League games. According to the Guardian, Lazio offered the Spaniard £50,000 a week but he wants around £100,000 a week to sign a new deal with the club. The club is still negotiating with Silva hoping to close a deal soon.

Featured Image Credit: Sky Sports

The Evolution of Romelu Lukaku

Lukaku has played 4099 minutes in 50 games for Inter Milan, scored 33 goals, and provided 6 assists with a 124mins/goal.

Love him or hate him, it can’t be denied that Romelu Lukaku is one of the most prolific strikers of the last decade. If you put his goalscoring record aside, he is also, as of this writing (2022), the player that has generated the most money through transfers in the history of the game. This speaks volume about his demand by other teams.

But what about his career? The key moments that have defined the current Inter Milan striker? Today we are going to talk about that, and a lot more regarding the Belgian striker. Let’s begin.

The dreadlocks and the young bulldozer.

Romelu Lukaku was born on May 13th of 1993 in Antwerp, Belgium. However, he has parents of Congolese origin, hence the name, ‘Bolingoli Romelu Lukaku’. Growing up very poor, Lukaku made a name for himself by standing out in the youth system of the biggest club in the country, Anderlecht. Moreover, he made headlines due to his incredible physique–by the age of thirteen, he was already dwarfing the referees and looking like a professional footballer.

Lukaku celebrating a goal during his early career days at Everton. The Belgian forward had a remarkable run with the Toffees.
Lukaku celebrating a goal during his early career days at Everton. The Belgian forward had a remarkable run with the Toffees.

He played for the senior Anderlecht team from 2008 to 2011, scoring 41 goals in 98. This feat warranted him a €20 million transfer to English Premier League side Chelsea. Even though he played 12 matches across all competitions with the Blues that season, and shared a dressing room with the likes of Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, John Terry or Juan Mata, Lukaku failed to score a single goal. Since he didn’t play a single minute in their Champions League victory that year, that trophy didn’t become a part of his cabinet.

Regardless, Chelsea loaned him out to another Premier League side, West Bromwich Albion, for the 2012/13 season. This is where the early days of Lukaku, the one with the dreads and raw power, started to shine in the Premier League. He scored 17 goals in 38 apps across all competitions, which was impressive considering he was just 19 years old at the time and still adapting to English football. A key moment for him was his hat trick in the 5-5 draw with Manchester United, which also happened to be Sir Alex Ferguson’s last ever match as a manager.

(Above) Lukaku as a teen player. His physique was well pronounced compared to his fellow players as is evident here.
(Above) Lukaku as a teen player. His physique was well pronounced compared to his fellow players as is evident here.

Despite playing quite well on loan at West Brom, new Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho didn’t fancy Lukaku at the time. Some people claimed his missed penalty against Bayern Munich in the European Super Cup played a big role in the Portuguese coach’s decision on loaning him once more, this time to Everton.

In many ways, Lukaku’s time at Goodison Park could be viewed as the “classic” version of the player. After an outstanding season on loan where he scored 16 goals in 33 games across all competitions, Everton signed him permanently in July of 2014 with a five-year contract and a £28 million fee. Lukaku would end up scoring 87 goals in 166 games for the Toffies in four seasons, cementing his place as a fan-favorite, and a Premier League star.

Confusion with Stormzy.

It was also during this period that he cut his dreads, resembling a lot more the player he is today. Consequently, in an event in 2017 a headline made by the Irish diary The Herald about him had a picture of the rapper Stormzy instead of Lukaku, which lead to the musician feeling insulted because of the racial undertones that mistake that.

“I don’t find none of this funny btw. Don’t wanna sound like the party pooper who missed the joke…,” Stormzy said on Twitter regarding the issue.

Alan Steenson, The Herald’s editor-in-chief, had this to say at the time: “Earlier, we made an error with a picture of Romelu Lukaku that wasn’t him. It was Stormzy. To be honest, we are embarrassed and want to say sorry to all involved and our readers for the error. We will keep our eye on the ball in the future.”

Manchester United and online abuse.

Lukaku’s great performances at Everton earned him a five-year contract and a £75 million, plus £15 million in add-ons, transfer to Manchester United in the summer of 2017. Ironically, it was his former Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho, who brought him to Old Trafford.

Big Rom featuring for Manchester United. He went on to receive a great deal of cyber bullying as a Manchester United player.
Big Rom featuring for Manchester United. He went on to receive a great deal of cyber bullying as a Manchester United player.

The Belgian’s time with the Red Devils has been one of the controversial periods of his career. While he started well that 2017/18 season and his record of 42 goals in 96 games during the two seasons he spent there doesn’t sound bad at all, moments of great form were also balanced by moments of terrible performances.

This was particularly true in the 2018/19 season where Lukaku would spend months without scoring, and there was a lot of online abuse due to his poor first touch and poor physical shape. A number of United fans started to claim he was fat. It didn’t help matters that Mourinho was sacked mid-way through the season, and new manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær fancied other players.

He did have that shining moment in the memorable comeback against Paris Saint Germain in the Champions League where he scored two goals, but by and large, the writing was on the wall for him to leave. That was exactly what happened when he went AWOL during the season, went to train with Anderlecht’s preseason squad, and forced an €80 million transfer to Inter Milan.

Inter Milan and the Belgian reign.

Lukaku spent two seasons at Milan, and they have been widely regarded as the best of his career, scoring a total of 64 goals in 95 games across all competitions. Manager Antonio Conte had been a huge fan of the Belgian for years, and he knew how to get the most out of Lukaku by putting him back in shape, and structuring a great striker partnership with the Argentinian Lautaro Martinez.

If “Big Rom” already looked like a beast when clashing with Premier League defenders, which are known for their robust build and physicality, then Lukaku looked like a monster in Serie A. He dominated in Italy, helping Inter Milan win the Scudetto in 2020/21 for the first time in eleven years, ending Juventus’ dominance.

It was during this period that Lukaku’s stocks were at an all-time high. He had cemented himself as one of the best strikers in the world, with the player himself stating that he was up there in the discussion with the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Karim Benzema. Now it was time to prove it at a club where he had some unfinished business…

What happened to Lukaku at Chelsea?

In the summer of 2021, after two colossal seasons in Italy, Lukaku returned to Chelsea a decade after he signed for them for the first time and via a transfer fee of £97.5 million. At the time, it seemed like a match made in heaven: Chelsea had recently won the Champions League with new manager Thomas Tuchel, and Lukaku had proven his doubters wrong at Inter. But things are not that simple in football.

While the Belgian’s season of 15 goals in 44 games is not the worst output ever for a striker, Lukaku looked like a shadow of his Serie A version, and oftentimes resembled the player he was during his final months at Manchester United: sluggish, slow, and lacking the dynamism and power he had shown at Inter.

Romelu Lukaku feeling disappointed after failing to convert a goal scoring opportunity in his second tenure with the Blues.
Romelu Lukaku feeling disappointed after failing to convert a goal scoring opportunity in his second tenure with the Blues.

Part of this was because he was no longer a second striker to help him gain spaces like Lautaro Martinez used to do for him, and it was also the fact that the Premier League had become much stronger physically as the years went by, so Lukaku couldn’t bully his way out of trouble like he used to do in Serie A.

Thomas Tuchel’s tactics also benefited a lot more from having a false nine in the vein of Kai Havertz or a hard-working number nine like Timo Werner–Lukaku was neither of those two profiles. Then things started to escalate off the pitch, and that is when things went downhill for Romelu at Stamford Bridge.

Wanting to leave Chelsea and return to Inter.

After a couple of difficult initial months at Chelsea, Lukaku decided to do an interview where he talked at great length about how incredible his time at Inter was, how much he missed the club and indirectly dissing his current club in the process. This naturally didn’t sit well with the Blues, and his relationship with Tuchel, the board, and the supporters who were by all means done at that point.

There were a lot of reports in the final months of that season about a possible return to Inter Milan. This move ultimately happened in the summer of 2022: Lukaku went back to Milan through a loan fee of approximately €8 million and by taking a pay cut. And while injuries have taken a huge toll on his season (just 2 goals in 5 games, as of this writing (2022/23 season)), he seems a lot happier there. Moreover, it is very likely that Inter Milan is going to sign him permanently by the end of the season.

Lukaku in a previous match for Inter Milan.
Lukaku in a previous match for Inter Milan.

With the Belgium national side.

It has to be said that Lukaku’s time with the Belgium national side has been contradictory, but that can be said about all the main players of their golden generational–they have failed to live up to their expectations.

Lukaku is the national side’s top goalscorer with 68 goals in 102 games. That is certainly impressive and is a record that is pretty much in line with what his record has been at the club level with his different teams. However, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

The truth of the matter is that the vast majority of his goals have been easy, throwaway games in the qualifying rounds for the Euros or the World Cup, and friendlies. In terms of the actual competition, Lukaku has usually fallen short when it mattered the most. His only main contribution in a major game was against Brazil in the 2018 World Cup in Russia where he was moved to the wing for that match and terrorized the Brazilian defense.

When compared to his club side performances, a common pattern with Lukaku is that he often struggles to deliver when it matters despite having a decent goalscoring record on both levels. Regardless, it can be argued that, in a way, he has been consistent for club and country.

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Style of play.

Romelu Lukaku is a striker that has relied over the years on his physicality, explosive pace, and goalscoring prowess. Contrary to popular belief, he is not much of a target man in the traditional sense of the term; his hold-up play is not very strong, and he is not very good at headers, despite his superb physique. He is faster than given credit for and relies a lot on being face-to-face to goal.

One of the major weaknesses that Lukaku has is not knowing what to do when he can’t rely on his physicality to bully his way out of trouble, and perhaps that is why he has struggled throughout his career to score in big games. Also, his technical abilities are far from stellar, and that is why his poor touch has become the subject of memes and unnecessary online abuse in recent years.

Manager Antonio Conte seemed to have had the right perception about how to use the Belgian to his full potential: by partnering him with a second striker that could open up spaces for him (Lautaro Martinez), and have Lukaku moving through the wings to have the chance of being face-to-face to goal.

Lukaku playing on the wings is not something he has done in the traditional sense of staying there the entire game. However, he has done it from time to time, and while he has been at his best in that regard with Conte, he also did at Man United with Ole Gunnar Solskjær in 2019, and with manager Roberto Martinez’s Belgium in the 2018 World Cup. So he has proven that he can be a lot more tactically flexible than given credit for.

At times, it can be argued that Lukaku has been profiled wrongly: due to his huge physique and power, most people and pundits view him as this old-school striker that is holding up the center-backs, and waiting for crosses to head the ball in the box. When managers such as Jose Mourinho and Thomas Tuchel used him that way, we usually saw the worst of Lukaku.

Regardless, he has proven over the years to be a prolific goalscorer, and is only a matter of time before we see his version at Milan once again, and, hopefully, in the World Cup as well.

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Race for the Italian Golden boot between Ronaldo and Immobile continues.

Race for the Italian Golden boot

With only 3 matches left for both, it is quite hard to tell who will win the Italian golden boot this season, Immobile or Ronaldo. Cristiano Ronaldo and Ciro Immobile have been on a tight race for the top scorer glory. Moreover, both have been consistent in goal scoring. Ciro Immobile is currently leading the table with a 31 goal tally as Cristiano follows with 30 goals. The two were tied at thirty until last night. Immobile scored a winning goal against Cagliari in a 2-1 victory.

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They’ve both been prolific forwards to their respective clubs this season. Furthermore, they have both scored 12 penalties as part of their goal tally. The two players have quite the history in being league top scorers. This makes it more interesting. Lazio will be facing Hellas Verona, Brescia and Napoli in that order. It is evident the club will not bench their top scorer. On the other hand, the league champions, Juventus, will be facing Sampdoria, Cagliari and Roma. Christiano Ronaldo, their main man upfront, is expected to start in all matches. Immobile has a good history with regards to the Italian golden boot. The Serie A Season will be ending on 12th August.

Photo Credits: Getty Images

Inter Milan to sign Alexis Sanchez on a permanent deal

Inter Milan to sign ALexis Sanchez on a permanent deal

Alexis Sanchez has had a good run at Inter Milan in his last eight appearances for the club scoring three goals.

It is for this reason that Inter has decided to sign the Man United forward permanently.

Sanchez earns around £400,000 a week. This is beyond Inter Milan’s reach. It is evident that Ole Gunnar has no plans of keeping the Chilean for the next season. As a result, he will have to sell him.

United’s contract with Sanchez will expire in 2022. Moreover, Manchester United has been paying him his wages during his time in Italy. If Alexis Sanchez agrees to sign for Inter Milan, then he will have to accept a wage cut and Man Utd will have to pay him for the remaining years on his contract.

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The former Barcelona forward was involved in Inter’s game against Napoli on Tuesday night where they won 2-0 to maintain their push to finish 2nd in the Serie A league.

The last time Inter finished in top three in the Serie A league was in 2011.

Featured Image Credit: The United Stand

Ciro Immobile headed for the European Golden Shoe.

Ciro Immobile headed for the European Golden Shoe

According to the statistics Ciro Immobile is headed for the golden shoe. Ciro immobile has been a man on fire this season. It is notable that he has overtaken Roberto Lewandoski’s goal tally. As a result, he is highest goal scorer in Europe. The 30 year Old Italian striker has scored 35 goals this season and still has a game at hand. He is yet to play Napoli away, on 1st August.

He has been prolific in Lazio’s offense and is currently Serie A’s top scorer with a 4 goal gap between him and Cristiano Ronaldo. With this record, he will win both the league golden boot and the European golden shoe. He is currently one goal away from Higuai­n’s record of most goals in a single Serie A season (36).This will also be the third time he is winning the Serie A golden boot.

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By winning the golden shoe he will be the first Serie A player in 11 years to win it. This will also be the first time since 2007/2008 season that a La Liga player has not won the golden shoe. He is breaking records against all odds, a force to reckon with. Lewandoski or Ciro Immobile for the golden shoe?

Photo Credits: Getty Images