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Season review: Italy

Published: Monday 21 May 2012, 21.34CET
Conducted by Antonio Conte, with Andrea Pirlo pulling the strings, Juventus made serene progress to their 28th Serie A title though SSC Napoli forced them to end on a disappointing note.
by Paolo Menicucci
from Milan
Season review: Italy
Alessandro Del Piero raises the Serie A trophy for Juventus ©AFP/Getty Images

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Published: Monday 21 May 2012, 21.34CET

Season review: Italy

Conducted by Antonio Conte, with Andrea Pirlo pulling the strings, Juventus made serene progress to their 28th Serie A title though SSC Napoli forced them to end on a disappointing note.

Juventus became the first side in two decades to lift the Serie A title after an unbeaten campaign as they claimed their 28th championship in style. Antonio Conte was the architect of the Bianconeri's return to prominence, turning an underachieving side into world beaters after his appointment last summer. The only blemish on the season came in the 43rd and final game, when SSC Napoli denied them a double in the Coppa Italia showpiece.

He has completely changed our team; he transformed a group of good players into a top side
Simone Pepe on Andrea Pirlo
We did not put the icing on the cake but that is because the cake was already finished; we had eaten it all up
Alessandro Del Piero after the cup final

Champions: Juventus
Seventh in their previous two campaigns, not many were confidently backing Juventus at the start of the season. Yet former skipper Conte built a team around an excellent midfield trio of Claudio Marchisio and summer signings Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal, and the Bianconeri thrived. Despite the attacking muscle of AC Milan and Zlatan Ibrahimović they won with a game to spare and rounded off the campaign with just 20 in the goals against column – 27 fewer than last term.

Cup final: SSC Napoli 2-0 Juventus
It was a sundry season for Napoli. A groundbreaking UEFA Champions League campaign was halted in extra time by eventual winners Chelsea FC in the last 16, and they failed to book a return to the competition by finishing fifth in Serie A. However, Walter Mazzarri's team ended on a high by beating 'unbeatable' Juventus in the Coppa Italia final in Rome. Edinson Cavani opened the scoring from the penalty spot after the hour and Marek Hamšík sealed Napoli's fourth cup triumph; their first since 1987.

European places*
Juventus – UEFA Champions League, group stage
AC Milan – UEFA Champions League, group stage
Udinese Calcio – UEFA Champions League, play-off
SSC Napoli – UEFA Europa League, group stage
S.S. Lazio – UEFA Europa League, play-off
FC Internazionale Milano – UEFA Europa League, third qualifying round

*Subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the Year: Andrea Pirlo (Juventus)
"He has completely changed our team; he transformed a group of good players into a top side," Juventus winger Simone Pepe said of Pirlo as he celebrated the Scudetto. Newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport compared Juventus to an American Football team, with Pirlo as the star quarter-back. The playmaker topped statistics for assists and completed passes, and at 32 he missed just one Serie A game. He has not lost a top-flight match since December 2010.

One to watch: Mattia Destro (AC Siena)
Bologna FC midfielder Gastón Ramírez and dynamic Atalanta BC winger Ezequiel Schelotto enjoyed great breakthrough seasons, but it was Destro that shone brightest from the shadows. On loan from Genoa CFC, the son of former Ascoli Calcio captain Flavio Destro scored 12 goals in 26 Serie A starts as Siena avoided relegation and earned inclusion in Italy's provisional UEFA EURO 2012 squad. "He's a modern forward," said Cesare Prandelli. "He moves around the pitch, never stops running and is a very good finisher."

Surprise package: Udinese Calcio
The Friulani gave short shrift to predictions in 2010/11 by finishing fourth and qualifying for the UEFA Champions League play-offs. With only three places available this time around and the departures of Alexis Sánchez, Cristián Zapata and Gökhan Inler last summer, few entertained the prospect of lightning striking twice. However, Francesco Guidolin repeated the trick, leading his side to third behind Juventus and Milan. Antonio Di Natale failed to finish top scorer for the third successive season but his 23 goals were instrumental enough.

Leading scorer: Zlatan Ibrahimović, AC Milan (28)

Relegated: US Lecce, Novara Calcio, AC Cesena

Promoted: Torino FC, Pescara Calcio, third team tbd after play-offs

Number: 20
Juventus became the first team to win the Scudetto without defeat since Milan under Fabio Capello 20 years ago when Serie A was an 18-team contest.

Quote
"We did not put the icing on the cake but that is because the cake was already finished; we had eaten it all up."
Alessandro Del Piero after the cup final, probably his last game for Juventus.

Last updated: 08/08/12 11.53CET

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