ROME (AP) — It’s no exaggeration to say that Cristiano Ronaldo had more of an impact on Juventus’ record-extending ninth straight Serie A title than anyone else.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner matched a record by scoring in 11 straight league matches before the break for the coronavirus pandemic and quickly regained his form during the restart by reaching the 30-goal mark after only 30 games in his second season in Italy.
For his 31st goal, Ronaldo scored the opener when Juventus beat Sampdoria 2-0 on Sunday to seal the title with two games to spare.
Ronaldo needs only one more goal to break a tie for the Juventus single-season record for league goals set by Felice Borel in 1933-34.
Ronaldo’s 10 goals after the lockdown are more than any other player has scored in Europe’s top five leagues, with Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling and Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski each scoring nine.
“Records are always important, but the important thing is that the team wins,” Ronaldo said. “These things are nice, but the scoring title is a natural process that comes as a consequence of scoring to win games for the team.”
At 35, Ronaldo has started every match since the restart.
“He has this incredible ability to recover,” Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri said. “I think it’s just in his DNA, his ability to project himself on to the next goal, every time. His mental and physical recovery rate is definitely unique.”
Ronaldo has developed an effective partnership with Paulo Dybala during the restart.
“We might have some moments in a game where we don’t cover the penalty area to perfection, but everything is compensated by their individual strength,” Sarri said. “We’re talking about two players who combined to score 41 goals this season. That’s a world-class level.”
Until recently, the most consecutive titles won in Serie A had been five, first set by Juventus from 1931-35.
The five-season streak was then matched by Torino from 1943-49 — including a period interrupted by World War II; and Inter Milan from 2006-10.
Juventus already has the longest streak in Europe’s top five leagues. Although Bayern Munich, which recently won the Bundesliga for the eighth straight time, isn’t far behind.
The longest top-flight streak anywhere in Europe was 14 set by Latvian club Skonto from 1991-2004 and Lincoln of Gibraltar from 2003-16.
The one major criticism surrounding Juventus’s previous eight titles was that the team wasn’t pretty to watch.
The first three titles won under Antonio Conte and then the next five under Massimiliano Allegri involved teams characterized for their suffocating defense and timely counterattacks.
First-year coach Sarri was expected to install his eye-opening system of swift passing and offensive wizardry — a system he honed to near-perfection at Napoli before overcoming doubters to direct Chelsea to the Europa League title last season.
But with individual stars like Ronaldo, Dybala and Higuain able to decide matches on their own, the consensus is that “Sarriball” hasn’t quite been fully implemented in Turin yet.
If Sarri can get his preferred midfielder Jorginho to leave Chelsea and join him at Juventus next season, however, the coach could make more of an impact.
In the meantime, Sarri can enjoy his first major title in Italy — and his only trophy in his home country since guiding Sansovino to the Serie D Italian Cup championship in 2003.
Sarri’s first two chances at a title this season were lost — to Lazio in the Italian Super Cup in December, then to Napoli in the Italian Cup final last month.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE NEXT
So dominant in Serie A, Juventus’ bigger goal at this point is to win the Champions League.
The Bianconeri host Lyon in the delayed round-of-16 second leg on Aug. 7 needing to overturn a 1-0 loss from February. If Juventus can do that, it will advance to the final eight in Lisbon.
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Andrew Dampf is at https://twitter.com/AndrewDampf