In the middle of the night, the Milan pros presented their fans with the championship trophy, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic raising the golden trophy in triumph. And the tifosi in Piazza Gino Valle, who had suffered for more than a decade, freaked out under the glow of flares and Bengal fire. Milan and Italian football are back in red and black.

After years of mediocrity and now a surprisingly splendid season in Serie A, AC Milan players and officials are enjoying their coup. “Some didn’t believe in us, some laughed at us, and today we are champions,” said Ibrahimovic on Milan’s 19th championship title. “It’s incredible satisfaction.”

A worthy 3-0 win at US Sassuolo sealed their victory in the table ahead of city rivals Inter Milan – the defending champions ended up two points behind. Milan’s wild party began on the pitch in Sassuolo: Ibrahimovic picked up his medal with a fat cigar in his mouth, defender Theo Hernandez splashed coach Stefano Pioli with champagne.

“I’ve wanted to celebrate with the Tifosi all year long,” said the coach, who was hugged and high-fived by dozens of fans after the Milan supporters stormed the pitch peacefully. “Fabulous Milan” was the headline in the daily newspaper “Gazzetta dello Sport”. On Monday evening, the next part of the championship party took place with the team’s parade through Milan in an open-topped bus.

In one of the most exciting Serie A years in a long time, AC Milan prevailed as a collective ahead of Inter, SSC Napoli and also the former series champion Juventus Turin: The really big stars were more likely to be identified in the squads of the rivals before the start of the season. “No one bet a lira on us,” said captain Alessio Romagnoli, “but we believed in ourselves from the start.”

With an average age of around 26, this team is the youngest champion team in Italy since the mid-1990s – and that despite two veterans: Ibrahimovic (40), after his personal twelfth championship title spread across five clubs, wants to consider continuing in the next few days or ended his career.

Olivier Giroud (35), who played a key role in the success with two goals in the derby against Inter (2-1) and on the final day in Sassuolo, is firmly scheduled for next season. But the youngsters stood out even more: The Portuguese Rafael Leão (22) was voted the most valuable player in Serie A. “He made the difference – all year long,” said Ibrahimovic.

Sandro Tonali (22) has become a fixture in midfield and should also help the national team to make a comeback. In defence, Fikayo Tomori (24) and Pierre Kalulu (21) made the injury absences of Romagnoli and Simon Kjaer forgotten, as did Mike Maignan the departure of EM goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Thanks to the age structure, a new era could begin. “Let’s hope this is just the beginning of a future that smiles for Milan,” said Paolo Maldini – once a pitch icon turned manager – after his first title as the Rossoneri’s technical director. “This has to be a starting point, not the goal,” added Maldini.

The upcoming change of ownership should not stop the rise. American investment company Elliott, owned by founder Paul Singer – who attended a game for the first time on Sunday – is about to sell most of its Milan stake to RedBird, another US-based investment firm.