Five things we learned from Serie A this weekend

Juve are still unstoppable, Gonzalo Higuain is still deadly when he's overweight and there's still no stopping Roma icon Francesco Totti.

Five things we learned from Serie A this weekend
Juventus celebrate their win. Photo: AFP

Here are five things we learned in Serie A this weekend:

Juventus set out scudetto stall

This time last year Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri was nervously biting his fingernails on the touchlines as the Italian giants responded to a Champions League defeat to Barcelona in May 2015 by contriving to completely destroy their start to the Serie A season. Juventus, in early September of 2015, were a walking disaster and only really got into their stride at the turn of the year before embarking on a record-equalling fifth consecutive title triumph.

Only three games into this campaign, the Old Lady looks to be in much ruder health as they target a record sixth successive title and a long run in the Champions League. The Bianconeri hold a two-point lead over Napoli and Roma, and host Sevilla in their group opener in Europe on Wednesday when fans will look to Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala to provide the goals following an encouraging performance at the weekend.

Greedy Gonzalo's appetite is now for goals

Photo: AFP

He's been called 'cicciono' (fatty) more than once at the start of season but a few extra guilty pleasures over the summer hasn't dented Gonzalo Higuain's appetite for goals. It took until Saturday for Juve's 90-million-euro signing from Napoli to make his starting debut, for the simple reason he was too overweight, and therefore too unfit for Juve's previous two encounters.

Allegri's decision has been quickly vindicated: having come off the bench and scored the winner in a 2-1 opening defeat of Fiorentina, Higuain made the most of his starting debut to hit a brace, including a spectacular volley, in a 3-1 win over Sassuolo in Turin. To boot, the 29-year-old said his pairing with compatriot and strike partner Paulo Dybala, Juve's top scorer last season, is “going very well”.

Inter already on the back foot

Photo: AFP

Besides Juventus, who splashed out 32 million euros to buy Miralem Pjanic from Roma and an Italian record of 90 million for Higuain, Inter Milan were Serie A's big spenders over the summer notably capturing Joao Mario from Sporting Lisbon  and Gabriel Barbosa from Santos. Except, you would hardly notice.

With Juve two points clear of Napoli and Roma after three games, Frank De Boer's side limped to their first win of the campaign on Sunday, Mauro Icardi rescuing an uninventive Nerazzurri side with a second-half brace after Jean-Christophe Bahebeck had struck a 63rd-minute opener. Icardi said the team had De Boer's wishes of “showing will to play football, determination and lots of aggression”. But Inter, who sit 11th and are already five points adrift of Juventus, need massive improvement if they are to fulfil the club's new Chinese owners' wishes of challenging for the scudetto.

Totti not ready to retire, after all

Photo: AFP

Roma's title challenge fizzled out early last season but there was no lack of drama thanks to the unrelenting Totti retirement saga. In the end, he earned a 24th and final year's contract but on Sunday the landscape changed. Or did it?

Totti, 39, came off the bench in a rain-interrupted encounter with Sampdoria at the Stadio Olimpico to hit a last-gasp winner from the penalty spot under the 'Curva Sud' end of the ground which houses much of Roma's ultra fraternity. He later declared: “The pitch will judge me. If I'm in this kind of condition, and my head tells me to keep on going, why stop?”

Milan can't wait for Santa

Although Inter Milan's recent takeover by Chinese tycoon Zhang Jindong has so far failed to produce the goods, AC Milan can't wait for Santa Claus to come this Christmas. The seven-time European champions are in the midst of a takeover by Chinese investors which should be completed by the end of the year.

As part of the deal, the new owners have pledged to set aside several hundred million euros to invest in the squad. After one win and two defeats, the latest a 1-0 San Siro reverse to Udinese on Sunday, coach Vincenzo Montella will be awake first to look under the Christmas tree.


PHOTOS: Italy’s most memorable medals at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

The Tokyo Olympics were Italy's best Games yet, with Italian athletes taking home more medals than ever before. Here are the highlights.

PHOTOS: Italy’s most memorable medals at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
Italy's Lamont Marcell Jacobs and Gianmarco Tamberi celebrate after winning golds in the 100m sprint and high jump. Photo by Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP

With ten golds, ten silvers and 20 bronzes, the Azzurri representing Italy in Tokyo were tenth on the medal table overall and top in Italian sporting history.

Previously the most medals Italy had ever won at a single Olympics was 36, which the country hadn’t equalled since the Rome Games in 1960.

READ ALSO: ‘Do Italy just win everything now?’: Celebrations after Italian athletes take Olympic gold

As well as a ceremony at the presidential palace in September, Italy’s Olympic champions will be welcomed back with prize money from the Italian National Olympic Committee: gold medalists are awarded €180,000 each, while silver medallists get €90,000 and bronze medallists get €60,000.

And then there’s the glory: after an exceptionally successful summer of Italian sport and music, Italy’s Olympic team dubbed their athletes “stupor mundi” – Latin for ‘the wonder of the world’. 

Italy’s gold medals at the 2020 Olympics

  • Men’s high jump: Gianmarco Tamberi

Italian high jumper Gianmarco Tamberi couldn’t have been happier to share the gold with his fellow competitor Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar, in what was hailed as one of the most touching moments of the Games. 

  • Men’s 100m: Lamont Marcell Jacobs

Relatively unknown long jumper-turned-sprinter Lamont Marcell Jacobs was in the form of his life when he outran the favourites and hurtled to first place in the biggest race in men’s athletics. He’s the first Italian ever to qualify for the Olympic final of the event, let alone win it.

Photo by Jewel SAMAD / AFP
  • Men’s 4 x 100m relay 

Lorenzo Patta, Lamont Marcell Jacobs, Eseosa Desalu and Filippo Tortu pulled off an astonishing victory by the smallest of margins, with Tortu flinging himself over the finish line to snatch gold from the favourites, Great Britain, by just a hundredth of a second. It was another historic first for Italy: the country has never before won the event, and the last time an Italian team got onto the podium was at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin (silver). 

Photo by Jewel SAMAD / AFP
  • Men’s 20km race walk: Massimo Stano
  • Women’s 20km race walk: Antonella Palmisano

Antonella Palmisano cemented Italy’s domination of the walking competition when she followed up her teammate Massimo Stano’s gold with her own victory a day later. She actually performed slightly faster at the Rio Olympics in 2016, but that time only earned her fourth last time round.

Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP
  • Track cycling, men’s team pursuit

Italy’s four-man team set a new track cycling world record by completing 16 laps (4km) in just 3:42.032. While Great Britain had long dominated the event and Denmark were reigning World Champions, no Italian team had won it since the Rome Olympics of 1960.

Photo by Greg Baker / AFP
  • Karate, men’s kumite -75kg: Luigi Busa
  • Rowing, lightweight women’s double sculls 
Valentina Rodini (L) and Federica Cesarini (R) celebrate their win in the lightweight women’s double sculls final. Photo by Luis ACOSTA / AFP
  • Sailing, mixed multihull – Nacra 17 foiling
  • Taekwondo, Men’s -58kg: Vito Dell’Aquila

Vito Dell’Aquila won Italy its first gold of the Games, at the age of just 20. It was his first Olympics but at this rate, it won’t be his last.

Photo by Javier SORIANO / AFP

Italy’s silver medals at the 2020 Olympics

  • Artistic gymnastics, women’s floor exercise: Vanessa Ferrari

Arguably Italy’s greatest competing gymnast, 30-year-old Vanessa Ferrari proved the value of experience when she became the first Italian to win an individual Olympic medal for women’s artistic gymnastics.

Photo by Loic VENANCE / AFP
  • Men’s individual archery: Mauro Nespoli
  • Men’s kayak single 200m: Manfredi Rizza
  • Fencing, men’s foil individual: Daniele Garrozo
  • Fencing, men’s sabre individual: Luigi Samele
  • Fencing, men’s sabre team

Fencing has long been one of Italy’s strongest sports, and these Games were no exception. Altogether Italian fencers took three silvers and two bronzes in both team and individual events. 

Italy’s Luca Curatoli (L) competes against South Korea’s Gu Bongil in the men’s sabre team gold medal bout. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
  • Women’s skeet shooting: Diana Bacosi
  • Swimming, men’s 4 x 100m freestyle relay
  • Swimming, men’s 800m freestyle: Gregorio Paltrinieri 
  • Weightlifting, women’s 64kg: Giorgia Bordignon
    Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

    Italy’s bronze medals at the 2020 Olympics

    • Women’s individual archery: Lucilla Boari
    • Women’s featherweight boxing: Irma Testa

    Irma “Butterfly” Testa made history as the first Italian woman to win an Olympic medal for boxing, a victory she dedicated to all of Italy’s female boxers.

    Photo by Luis ROBAYO / POOL / AFP
    • Women’s cycling road race: Elisa Longo Borghini 
    • Track cycling, men’s omnium: Elia Viviani 
    • Men’s 10km marathon swimming: Gregorio Paltrinieri 

    Gregorio Paltrinieri is one of the best long-distance swimmers there is, holding the men’s world record for the 1500m freestyle. He comes home from Tokyo with two medals: silver in the 800m freestyle, and bronze in the gruelling 10km swim.

    Photo by Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP
    • Swimming, men’s 100m breaststroke: Nicolo Martinenghi
    • Swimming, men’s 100m butterfly: Federico Burdisso
    • Swimming, men’s 4 x 100m medley relay
    • Swimming, women’s 800m freestyle: Simona Quadarella 
    • Judo, women’s -52kg: Odette Giuffrida
    Photo by Franck FIFE / AFP
    • Judo, women’s -63kg: Maria Centracchio
    • Fencing, women’s épée team
    • Fencing, women’s foil team 
    • Karate, women’s kata: Viviana Bottaro

    Accomplished karateka Viviana Bottaro won Italy its first Olympic medal in karate, which made its debut at the Tokyo Games. 

    Photo by Alexander NEMENOV / AFP
    • Rowing, lightweight men’s double sculls
    • Rowing, men’s four
    • Rhythmic gymnastics, group all-around

    Nicknamed le Farfalle (‘the Butterflies’), Italy’s five-woman rhythmic gymnastic team provided one of Italy’s last medal-winning performances on the final day of the Games, and one of the most spectacular.

    Photo by Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP
    • Weightlifting, men’s 67kg: Mirko Zanni 
    • Weightlifting, men’s 81kg: Antonino Pizzolato
    • Wrestling, men’s freestyle 97kg: Abraham de Jesus Conyedo Ruano