By Claas Philipp
Genoa midfielder Alexander Merkel, who enjoyed a loan spell at AC Milan at the tail end of last season, believes that his former side threw away the Scudetto to Juventus.
The Rossoneri led the title race for much of the season, but after a collapse in form late in the campaign, the Old Lady were able to steal a march and win the league.
And the 20-year-old feels that Massimiliano Allegri's side have nobody but themselves to blame, but insists that he enjoyed his time at San Siro.
"We had the title in our hands, and gambled on it, which was, of course, all the more bitter," he told Goal.com.
"With a few games remaining, we were in first place, but Juve were champions. Otherwise, I'd be celebrating my second championship.
"I definitely had a good time there, and I enjoyed myself."
The Germany youth international was previously co-owned by Genoa and Milan, but with his rights fully transferred to the Rossoblu, Merkel wants to make an impact for the club next season.
"Milan and Genoa have come to an agreement, and my rights are now 100 per cent owned by Genoa. We have a good team, I'm looking forward to it. Let's see what the new season brings.
"Life goes on and I want to take my chance at Genoa. I want to go through the training camp and get fit, then we'll see what happens.
"In football you never know. I'm not currently [in discussions with other clubs], but that's what my management is for. I only focus on football."
A graduate of the Stuttgart academy, Merkel did not make a single Bundesliga appearance before moving to Serie A. However, he has since been liked with a move to Werder Bremen, and although he insists that he has no preference between the two leagues, he refused to rule out a return to Germany in the future.
"Rumours about Werder Bremen were naturally pleasing - Werder are not a bad club. But there was nothing concrete. In football, you should never say never. That would obviously be a nice option. The league is certainly an attractive one.
"These are two very different leagues. In Germany, the stadiums are sold out every weekend. In Italy, that's not the case, unfortunately, but there are lots of great players here.
"Both leagues have their advantages. In Italy, it's a little more tactical. The teams stay back and are a bit smarter than in Germany, where teams are very attacking."
Merkel went on to highlight Champions League glory as his ultimate aim in football, and praised his former team-mate Zlatan Ibrahimovic for his approach to life.
"It would be an absolute dream to win the Champions League some day. That would be the best thing for me.
"Zlatan is a world-class footballer, He's a man who gives 100% when he's on the pitch. He tells you exactly what you're thinking, and tells you not to lie to him. I think that's great. He's an extraordinary person."
Merkel also discussed the recent Euro 2012 tournament, and revealed his surprise at the dominance of Spain's final victory over Italy, but stressed that he was supporting die Mannschaft throughout the tournament.
"I would not have expected Spain to win 4-0. Italy were very strong for the whole tournament, and against Spain in the group match they did very well. That's why I did not expect such a big result. Spain clearly deserve it, but I was, of course, rooting for Italy.
"[But] I was, of course, crossing my fingers for the Germans. I had expected a little bit more from the Germans because in the matches before, they were very dominant.
"However, that wasn't the case against Italy, so I was very surprised. It was a great game of football, but unfortunately, in the end, Germany lost."
Born in Kazakhstan to parents of German descent, Merkel has represented die Mannschaft at youth level throughout his career, but insists that he is determined to make an impact at club level before deciding on where his international future lies.
"At the moment, I'm not worried about it. I only want to do well for my club, and we'll see that about that when it comes to it. But the first place is the club."