AC Milan defeated Sassuolo by 3-0 on the final day and went on to claim their first Serie A title in 11 years, on Sunday. Coming to the game with a two-point lead over their arch-rival Inter Milan, the draw would have sufficed for the Rossoneri to end their title drought. Olivier Giroud scored a quick brace before Franck Kessie’s strike in the 36th minute secured the title.

Milan has also equaled Inter’s record of 18 Serie A titles, and now it’s only Juventus with more titles than them.

The club has been vindicated for appointing an unproven Stefano Pioli as their head coach in 2019. Under Pioli’s leadership, Milan has shown consistent improvement. After a gap of seven years, they finished inside the top four last year. However, the club wanted to replace him with Ralf Ragnick at the beginning of this season.

It was Paulo Maldini, the sporting director at the club, who stopped that from happening and extended Pioli’s contract. Pioli impressed everyone with his signings, bringing in Sandro Tonali, Ante Rebic, Simon Kjaer, and Fikayo Tomori to revamp the squad. They also added veterans like Olivier Giroud and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and both of them stepped up on a regular basis. 

In the end, a 2-1 victory over the Nerrazurri proved crucial for the franchise. They were trailing by 1-0 before Giroud netted twice in the dying minutes to turn the game on its head. Three weeks later, they passed another tricky hurdle, beating Atalanta by 2-0.

But the job was not yet over. Pioli showed a Kobe Bryant video to the team to keep them focused. “I showed the lads an interview with Kobe Bryant, who said at 2-0 up in the NBA playoffs, the job is not done. We’re not done,” Piolo said. “We need to maintain that calm and concentration that can in the end prove decisive.”

Bryant, having spent seven years of his childhood in Italy, was a hardcore Milan fan. 

”Watching (Ruud) Gullit, (Frank) Rijkaard, (Marco) Van Basten and (Paolo) Maldini was always a dream for me,” Bryant once said. ”It’s always been my favorite squad. Back in Los Angeles I have an AC Milan shirt and scarf inside my locker and I see them every day.”

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