Season closers: PSG and Juve reinforce their dominance, PAOK break Athens monopoly

By Samindra Kunti

April 23 – Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain and PAOK all clinched domestic titles as the Serie A, Ligue 1 and Superleague were settled this weekend. For PAOK it was the first league title in 34 years, breaking Athens’s hegemony over the Greek domestic crown.

Juventus reaffirmed their status as kings of Italy and serial Serie A champions as they defeated Fiorentina at the weekend to clinch their 8th consecutive title on 87 points with five match days remaining. The Turin giants now have an unassailable lead over second-placed Napoli, who trail by 20 points.

It is the first time that a club has won eight straight league titles in one of Europe’s top five competitions, but the Scudetto crown will feel bittersweet to Juventus, who exited the European stage last week following a footballing masterclass by Dutch opponents Ajax Amsterdam.

The defeat will have been grating for Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli who has always envisaged a closed European Super League. Last summer Juventus acquired the services of Cristiano Ronaldo in a €100-million- deal from Real Madrid to conquer Europe, but for a second consecutive season the Italians crashed out at the quarter-final stage of the Champions League.

“It was upsetting and negative on Tuesday,” said Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci. “Today we turned our anger toward the pitch and transformed it into positive energy to achieve this goal.”

“Winning eight titles in a row isn’t easy,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. “I hear talk of a title race that is not very interesting, but it is more credit to Juventus than lack of credit to the others.”

In France PSG also sealed the title. They limped over the line, having not won any of their previous three games. It’s a sixth consecutive title for the Parisians, who can still win the domestic double double with a French Cup final to come against Rennes next weekend, but this season will not be remembered as a particular successful one in the French capital.

World Cup star Kylian Mbappe exploded over the last nine months, but it was not enough to steer his club to the European silverware they crave as Thomas Tuchel’s team crashed out of the Champions League in the round of 16 following a dramatic tie against Manchester United. Tuchel reportedly has extended his contract in Paris until 2021 despite the disappointing results.

In Greece, PAOK Thessaloniki were the first team outside Athens to win the league title in more than three decades. PAOK defeated relegated Levadiakos 5-0 to retain a five-point advantage over Olympiakos with just one game left to play. The match was quickly reduced to a formality, with two goals by Yevhen Sakhov and strikes from Diego Biseswar, Fernando Varela and Karol Swiderski setting off wild celebrations in Greece’s second biggest city.

It was a first league title for PAOK since 1985 and the first time a club not hailing from the capital have won the domestic crown in more than 30 years. The result marks a big turnaround for the Thessaloniki club, taken over by controversial gun-toting Russian billionaire businessman Ivan Savvidis in 2012. Savvidis settled the clubs debts and pumped €63 million into building a new squad. He made his fortune in agriculture.

“We have laid the foundations for what I hope is the start of some great achievements,” said Savvidis. “Let those in Athens think with a clear head: What they did to us made us stronger by the day.”

The Russian, with partial Greek ancestry, made global headlines last year when he stormed onto the field with a holstered handgun strapped to his waist, contesting the referee’s decision in a game against AEK.

Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1566463552labto1566463552ofdlr1566463552owedi1566463552sni@o1566463552fni1566463552