Why Gian Piero Gasperini Atalanta’s revolution deserved silverware | OneFootball

Why Gian Piero Gasperini Atalanta’s revolution deserved silverware | OneFootball

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·23 May 2024

Why Gian Piero Gasperini Atalanta’s revolution deserved silverware

Article image:Why Gian Piero Gasperini Atalanta’s revolution deserved silverware

There was a sense of relief when Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta won the Europa League yesterday. Long considered to be a side that wasn’t meant to win silverware despite playing exceptional football, they broke that perception to pieces by beating the Invincibles and winning their first European title in history.

Gasperini’s comments to Sky Italia after the game were rather striking, as he said: “I don’t understand this thing about being judged by trophies. It’s not like I’m any better now than I was this afternoon.”

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And while the statement does ring true, it is also true that Gasperini’s contributions to the Italian game deserves more than just silverware. It deserves a salute and gratitude and the silverware won last night was the least that his team deserves.

Back during lockdown, the small city of Bergamo was one of the worst COVID affected areas in Italy. The horrors of the pandemic in Europe had first taken hold in Bergamo, which had to somewhat look at it’s football team for hope and joy and Atalanta did deliver, as they advanced into the quarter-finals of the Champions League and their exceptional approach to the game made many stand up take notice.

That made the world look at Bergamo and it gave the city an identity when COVID was ravaging through and the headlines associated the place with the breakout. But Atalanta gave Bergamo a new identity – an escape.

When the rest of the world watched Gasperini’s Atalanta go about their business in an ‘organised chaos’ manner, perceptions about Italian football changed. Long associated with a defensive brand of football, Italian football was viewed as progressive, modern and much more attacking when Atalanta represented the nation at the highest level. While they were minutes away from beating Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League quarter-final and their methods drew criticism, it sent a worldwide message to everyone watching that La Dea will not bend. They will not deter from their tactical identity.

And that very identity was on show yesterday against the ‘Invincibles’, as La Dea pressed Xabi Alonso’s side out of the park, stifled them from the first minute and their man-to-man marking denied Leverkusen players any space or time on the ball. It came as shock to the German champions, who didn’t know what had hit them. It was, after all, the coming together of eight years of hard work and the perfection of a process in Bergamo.

In a way, Gasperini staying at the Gewiss has been of a huge help for Atalanta when it comes to retention of their attacking identity. But there is also the small matter of the club’s recruitment suiting exactly what is needed for the manager.

Italy’s harsh reality is much different from that of England, Spain or even Germany. Clubs struggle to make money and generally, that prevents them from being stable and consistent entities. Milan and Inter previously jumped from one owner to another and under the same ownership, they couldn’t build under the same managers over a longer term. While Juventus were a European force in Max Allegri’s first stint, they lost their way after that and they continue to struggle for a new identity.

Atalanta meanwhile, have done something that no other Serie A giant has done. They’ve become a brand. Their approach to the game under Gasperini elevates the level of players, improves them, escalates their value. They then sell those players on and without a hitch, replace them perfectly and the process carries on very efficiently, making them a very stable club despite the lack of external cash flow (as it is in other leagues).

On top of that, La Dea perhaps have the best youth academy in Italy. While graduate Matteo Ruggeri impressed yesterday and scored a sensational goal against Marseille in the second leg of the semi-finals, Davide Zappacosta won silverware for a club that he first broke through at as a teenager. Italian football and European football is glittered with either ex-Atalanta players or youth graduates. From Tottenham’s Dejan Kulusevski and Manchester United duo Rasmus Hojlund and Amad Diallo to Inter’s Alessandro Bastoni and Franck Kessie, it has become part of the club’s heritage. It was only fitting that Ruggeri and Giorgio Scalvini won the Europa League, representing how much the academy means to the club.

It is often a case of the fact that Atalanta have what a lot of Italian clubs do not and it isn’t as if they’ve received any external help. This is all their doing and it is their fresh identity that makes many clubs in the country look at them with a sense of admiration. Gasperini himself is looked at with a sense of admiration. While he may not be the most loved manager for various reasons, Ivan Juric, Thiago Motta and Monza’s Raffaele Palladino are seen as ‘students’ of the Atalanta boss.

Quite recently, Motta was asked about the influences of Gasperini in his ideas from their time at Genoa and he responded:

“There is certainly some influence, especially as I had so many wonderful experiences with him in training and working methods, the strength he transmits to the squad every day.”

For someone who has had a major influence in the Itailan game over the last decade, it would be a surprise for an outsider to realise that it was Gasperini’s first ever piece of top flight silverware. But that trophy is a tangible reminder to everyone for how important he is for the Italian game. It will forever serve as an indicator that Gasperini and Atalanta mean something to the game in the country. And now, nothing will ever change that.

Kaustubh Pandey I GIFN

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