Comparison with previous season: +7 (2nd)
Despite finishing runners-up last term and winning the Winter Champions crown, few believed Milan could genuinely get the Scudetto this time around. It was a largely inexperienced side with very little strength in depth, stretched to breaking point by the Champions League and injuries, yet they persevered. While Inter, Napoli and Juventus faltered, the Rossoneri remained relatively consistent throughout and kept their nerve under the kind of pressure they simply weren’t accustomed to. It’s not quite Leicester City winning the Premier League, but it’s still the youngest squad to win Serie A in the three points for a win era, at 26 years and 97 days – and that’s with Zlatan Ibrahimovic skewing the average.
Turning point of the season
Inter were ready to run away with the title again, as Milan were coming off a controversial defeat to Spezia and a stalemate with Juventus. Ivan Perisic opened the scoring in the Derby della Madonnina and only Mike Maignan heroics prevented more, but after 75 minutes of struggle, Olivier Giroud netted twice in three minutes to turn it all around. The Frenchman redirected a wayward Brahim Diaz effort, then turned Stefan de Vrij inside out. That 2-1 victory gave the Rossoneri momentum, belief and a superior head-to-head record that kept Inter on their back foot for the rest of the season.
The coach: Stefano Pioli
Pioli finally won the first trophy of his managerial career and his mark was all over this squad. While some considered his paternal approach to be soft, it was the right way to get the best out of so many young and promising players. He repeatedly had to plug holes and reshuffle his pack to keep them going, as injuries ruled out more experienced stars for long periods, but while Luciano Spalletti poured the pressure on a Napoli side that crumbled, Pioli protected and nurtured his side. It’s the natural culmination of the project he moulded since rising from the ashes of that 5-0 defeat to Atalanta in January 2020.
Player of the Year: Rafael Leao
The Portuguese winger always had talent, physicality and fancy footwork, but he was also an extremely frustrating figure who would vanish from games for long periods and show an uncanny ability to always make the wrong choice of pass or shot. Many would’ve given up on Leao, but Stefano Pioli and Milan helped hone those natural abilities. The results were 11 goals and 10 assists in 34 Serie A games, plus endless free kicks earned, because at times this season the 22-year-old was simply unplayable. He learned not just to run at defenders but how to create the utmost panic in them too. Where he used to be fancy for no reason, he became lethally efficient.
Disappointing Player of the Year: Brahim Diaz
This was meant to be the season the Spaniard flourished, his second on loan from Real Madrid, but instead the 22-year-old regressed. Just three goals and as many assists in 31 Serie A games don’t even reflect how little impact he made, especially in the second half of the season, when he seemed like a ghost wandering around aimlessly. It’s no coincidence that the whole team worked much better when Rade Krunic or Franck Kessie were moved into his trequartista role. Brahim Diaz was never the same after a few weeks out with COVID and didn’t score a single goal in all competitions following his return in November 2021.