20 May 2024, 11:01

Inter held by Lazio at title party as debt deadline looms, Sassuolo down

ROME, May 20, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - Inter Milan were officially crowned Serie A
champions at the San Siro on Sunday but a looming deadline for the club's
owners to repay nearly 400 million euros of debt leaves the future uncertain.

Denzel Dumfries' late header secured a meaningless 1-1 draw with Lazio, who
stay seventh and three points behind local rivals Roma who defeated Genoa 1-0
in the day's late match.

Simone Inzaghi's Inter cared little about the result as the Scudetto was
sealed weeks ago, but the trophy ceremony took place against an uneasy
backdrop as the club could be repossessed within a matter of days.

What was supposed to be a weekend of celebration has been overshadowed by the
Tuesday deadline for the repayment of around 395 million euros ($429 million)
to US fund Oaktree.

A source told AFP on Saturday that it was "unlikely" that Inter's Chinese
owners Suning would be able to fulfil its obligation to Oaktree.

That means Oaktree could take control of the club in a similar manner to the
way AC Milan were acquired by another US fund, Elliott Management, six years

"We are focused on what happens on the pitch," said Inter captain and Serie
A's leading scorer Lautaro Martinez.

"All we can do today is enjoy the moment, have fun at this party with our
families and our fans."

Inter's sporting CEO Giuseppe Marotta put a brave face on the situation when
speaking to broadcaster DAZN pre-match, saying that the club were in a
"solid" position.

But a banner in the stands read "Thanks Steven", for president Steven Zhang,
suggesting that fans have little faith in Suning staying on as owners.

- Zhang absence -

Inter have won seven trophies, including two Serie A titles, and reached two
European finals since Suning acquired the club in 2016.

But Zhang hasn't been in Italy for a year and the tone of his statement on
Saturday, when he accused Oaktree of jeopardising Inter's stability, was not
what fans wanted to hear one day before the title celebrations.

"The only thing I can do is thank Steven Zhang, he's been a great president
who has always been behind me and helped me," Inzaghi told DAZN.

"I can only thank him for the organisation that I've found myself with at
Inter over the past three years."

Sassuolo's 11-year stay in Serie A came to an end in dramatic fashion after
they lost 2-0 to Cagliari and Udinese snatched a 1-1 draw with Empoli in the
14th minute of stoppage time.

Matteo Prati and Gianluca Lapadula ensured Cagliari of a place in Italy's top
flight with goals in the 71st and 91st minutes in Reggio Emilia.

Sassuolo thought they still had a chance of fighting for survival on the
final day of the season after M'Baye Niang's penalty gave Empoli a 90th-
minute lead at Udinese.

But eight minutes later Jacopo Fazzi pulled back Roberto Pereyra just as the
Argentine looked set to level for Udinese from close range.

After a long VAR check, Lazar Samardzic thumped home the equaliser from the
spot with the last kick of the game.

That draw and Frosinone 1-0 win at Monza left second-from-bottom Sassuolo
five points from Udinese, who sit one point above Empoli and the relegation
zone, with one match remaining.



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