|Paul Pogba - Getty Images|
Roma’s Radja Nainggolan scored the only goal in the final minute against Napoli to end Maurizio Sarri’s team’s slim hopes of catching Serie A leaders Juventus.
Napoli needed to win in Rome to stand any chance of catching Juve, who overcame a poor start to the campaign to win 24 of their 25 next games. Juve lead Napoli by 12 points with three games to go, while Roma’s win sees them move just two points behind second and seven clear of fourth-placed Internazionale.
Juventus say they have no intention of selling their top players and are determined to assert themselves as a major force in Europe next season after wrapping a fifth successive Serie A title.
Despite their domestic dominance, Juve’s European form has been patchy over the past few seasons with one group stage elimination and two defeats to Bayern Munich – in the quarter-finals and this season in the round of 16. Even when they reached the final last season, they were seen as upstarts rather than equals of teams such as Real Madrid and Barcelona.
The Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri, who has been in charge for the last two seasons, wants that to change and is determined to strengthen the squad still further in the close season.
“The club will focus on improving the squad, as it did last summer, bringing in young players with great technique. Next year we must focus on winning the Champions League. It’s somewhat narrow-minded just to focus just on Serie A,” he said. “It was hard to digest this year. We got knocked out this year on the final cross of the game against Bayern Munich but we need to do better next year.”
Serie A clubs often have trouble holding onto their players in the face of the greater financial power of their English and Spanish counterparts. However, Juventus have already stated that they intend to keep Paulo Dybala and Paul Pogba, their two most precocious talents.
Pogba, 23, has come on hugely this season after being given more responsibility after the departure of the veteran playmaker Andrea Pirlo. A player who combines finesse and physical power, Pogba could fetch more than £100m if sold, Juventus estimate. Allegri, however, said jokingly last week that he would rather keep the Frenchman than have the money to spend in the transfer market.
Dybala, one year younger, has also shone in his first season following his move from Palermo, scoring 16 goals.
“Over the course of our history, Juventus have very rarely let our best players go. Paul, as well as Dybala, is part of the core of this team and we do not intend to put them on the market,” said the chief executive, Giuseppe Marotta. “We want to go out and get great players while keeping our most valuable pieces. We will only sell players who have told us they want to leave, but that is not the case with Pogba or Dybala or any of the others.”
In many ways, this year’s title has been the most unexpected of the last five. Juventus got off to a miserable start after losing Pirlo as well as top scorer Carlos Tevez to his native Argentina and tireless midfielder Arturo Vidal to Bayern Munich, and were 11 points off the pace by the end of October. But after taking 73 points out of a possible 75, they clinched another title with five games to spare.
“To win this season would be really crazy and unbelievable,” said the goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon after the 2-1 win at Fiorentina on Sunday. “We’ve shown the technical and moral strength of the group, the determination not to give in and our ability to astonish.”