Soccer-Return of big names will help shape Serie A title race


FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Premier League - Chelsea v Leicester City - Stamford Bridge, London, Britain - May 19, 2022 Chelsea's Romelu Lukaku during the warm up before the match Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers

(Reuters) - Inter Milan forward Romelu Lukaku and Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba are looking to kick-start their careers by moving back to Serie A, while their clubs are hoping to rediscover the winning formula from their previous stints.

Belgium international Lukaku scored 24 goals to help Inter win their first title in 11 years in the 2020-21 season before joining Chelsea. He has returned to Italy on loan after a disappointing spell at the Premier League side.

Pogba, who played a key role in France's 2018 World Cup win, has returned to Juventus on a free transfer from Manchester United. He won four straight titles during his previous stint with Juve.

Pogba has been sidelined with a torn meniscus ahead of the season but Italian media reported that he has opted not to undergo surgery and could be back playing by mid-September.

AC Milan followed in the footsteps of Inter by clinching their first title in 11 years last season but the bookmakers have them behind both their local rivals and a revamped Juve.

While welcoming a familiar face in Pogba, Juventus have bid farewell to several players - including Giorgio Chiellini and fellow defender Matthijs de Ligt - to make room for Massimiliano Allegri's rebuild.

The manager has been keen to downplay his side's chances, saying their rivals "have strengthened a lot".

"I think Inter, Milan and Roma are much stronger than last year. Winning will be more difficult, you will have to work very well," Allegri told reporters.

After a second successive fourth-placed finish, Juve have been busy in the transfer market, signing forward Angel Di Maria and Torino defender Gleison Bremer.

Roma's Europa Conference League win - their first major European title in more than six decades and their first trophy in 14 years - and the signing of striker Paulo Dybala from Juve make them dark horses for the title.

Jose Mourinho will try to lead Roma to their first Scudetto in more than 20 years.

Venezia had earned promotion to the top flight after a 19-year absence but were sent straight back down again last season, a fate the could await AC Monza, Cremonese and US Lecce.

Monza, however, are not just planning to survive.

After taking their transfer spending in the close season to more than 21 million euros ($21.31 million) the Serie A new boys are targeting a place in the top half.

Former AC Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi bought Monza for a bargain when they were in the third tier in 2018, three years after the club's bankruptcy.

The former Italian prime minister has brought cash, contacts and former Milan chief executive Adriano Galliani in the hope that the club will eventually compete in Europe.

($1 = 0.9855 euros)

(Reporting by Silvia Recchimuzzi in Gdansk; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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