MILAN (AP) — As Giovanni Di Lorenzo became the first Napoli player to lift the Serie A trophy toward the sky since Diego Maradona, the stadium named after the Argentina great exploded into a sea of joy.
Napoli had clinched its first Serie A title in 33 years with five rounds to spare but had to wait until the final day of the season to be presented with the trophy, in front of its own fans at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.
Players danced joyously as they each took their turns lifting up the scudetto, while the song “We Are The Champions” was played.
Di Lorenzo later led the team and the whole stadium in a rendition of “It’s us, it’s us, we are the champions of Italy.”
That came during further celebrations that lasted around three hours after the trophy presentation, with performances by musicians along with speeches. At the beginning of the party there was a tribute to Maradona, and the crowd loudly chanted “Diego! Diego!”
Napoli signed off from a stunning season with a 2-0 win over already-relegated Sampdoria, in a match where on-the-field action mattered little.
Sunday saw another round of festivities in Naples, a city that hasn’t really stopped celebrating since even before Napoli clinched the title.
And, just like most of the past month, the streets were packed with joyous Napoli fans, chanting and waving flags, and the air was tinged in blue — the team’s colors — from flares.
There was also an incredible atmosphere inside the stadium, with the fans singing incessantly — mainly about being champions of Italy.
Luciano Spalletti, who announced at the start of the week that he is leaving the team, was presented with the Serie A coach of the year trophy before kickoff, while winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia received his player of the season award.
Kim Min-jae and Victor Osimhen were also given trophies for best defender and forward, respectively.
The players also walked out carrying their children. Osimhen’s son was wearing a smaller copy of the face mask his father wears during matches.
Osimhen set Napoli on the way to victory against Sampdoria with a penalty. It was his 26th league goal and the Nigeria international was the first African player to be crowned top Serie A goalscorer.
Giovanni Simeone doubled Napoli’s lead with a stunning strike and celebrated by holding up a shirt with the No. 10 on it that Maradona wore in an actual match.
It was also an emotional match for veteran Sampdoria forward Fabio Quagliarella, who brought an end to his Serie A career at his hometown club.
Quagliarella cried through most of the warmup but managed to hold back the tears when he was substituted to a standing ovation late on. The 40-year-old player hugged everyone on his way off, including those on the bench from both teams.
There were also emotional scenes at San Siro as AC Milan bid farewell to veteran forward Zlatan Ibrahimović, who then surprised everyone by announcing his retirement from soccer.
The 41-year-old Ibrahimović had tears in his eyes on the sidelines as the Milan fans unfurled a giant banner at one end saying “Godbye” and chanted his name. Ibrahimović cupped his hands in the shape of a heart and blew kisses to the fans.
There was also a special ceremony dedicated to him after the match, with the Milan players and staff giving him a guard of honor as he walked out onto the field.
Milan beat Hellas Verona 3-1, while Spezia lost 2-1 at Roma, which played its first game since losing the final of this year’s Europa League to Sevilla. That left Verona and Spezia locked on 31 points and means that, under new rules, there will be a playoff to decide which one remains in Serie A.
The playoff will take place next Sunday at a neutral ground.
Teun Koopmeiners netted a hat trick as Atalanta beat Monza 5-2 to book a spot in next season’s Europa League.
Atalanta finished fifth, a point above Roma, which also qualified for the competition.
Juventus won 1-0 at Udinese to finish seventh and will play in the Europa Conference League next season unless it is banned from European competition by UEFA because of various legal troubles.
Also, Bologna won 3-2 at Lecce.
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