18 Sep Atalanta at Champions League: The fairytale story of Europe’s most significant overachievers, headed by Papu Gomez
The Dea have qualified for the Champions League for the first time and will have 3,000 proud Bergamaschi at Zagreb for Wednesday’s meeting with Dinamo
Ahead of a vital battle with Crotone on October 2, 2016, fresh Atalanta trainer Gian Piero Gasperini was halted by a guy outside his house in Bergamo.
Following four defeats in his first five Serie A matches accountable for the Piemontese naturally emphasized a dressing-down in an upset local.
But, the stranger told me “I like your thoughts. I am convinced you’ll do well here.” As Gasperini afterwards confessed,”I believed that he had been making fun of me”
That Monday, Atalanta maintained a critical 3-1 success at Crotone which Gasperini admits preserved his occupation. Additionally, it brought him a free meal.
“I met that guy again and he encouraged me to dinner in his residence,” Gasperini informed Gazzetta dello Sport.
“He cooked a fantastic risotto. Now, Paolo is a good friend. By risotto into risotto, we are at the Champions League…”
Really, on Wednesday day, Atalanta will perform Europe’s greatest cup competition for the very first time , contrary to Dinamo Zagreb.
The 180 chairs on that the charter-plane into Croatia sold out in moments. Thirty-five coaches will deliver a further 1,500 fans across the Alps.
Overall, there’ll be 3,000 proud Bergamaschi present in the Stadion Maksimir. Before kick-off, they will unfurl a banner announcing,”Noi siamo arrivati!” (“We’ve arrived!”) .
It has been one hell of a journey, for the fans, for its gamers, also for Gasperini. It had been he who needed to lift the whole club following last year’s catastrophic Europa League play-off round exit in the hands of Copenhagen.
Atalanta had dominated the Danes over two legs were removed 4-3 in a penalty shootout in Parken on August 30. It appeared as if the Dea’s year was over before it had really started.
Gasperini was rebellious, however. “This really is really a team that responds,” he advised Sky Sport Italia instantly following the reduction in Denmark. “They are all really positive men.”
They had been at risk of drowning in a sea of negativity, however.
Following the Copenhagen elimination, Gasperini stood players and asked them to come ahead, one-by-one, and compose on that the white-board what they believed Atalanta’s goal for the season ought to be.
Josip Ilicic composed”security”. He was not the only one, based on Gasperini. What is more, nobody composed’Champions League’.
Atalanta’s players were definitely crestfallen at wasting the opportunity to embark on another European experience, having attained the Europa League Round of 32 the year earlier.
It revealed also. Atalanta missing three of the next five Serie A games, picking up only two things in the procedure. At that point, security was really the goal.
When Gasperini had a success most, however, he obtained one: for Crotone in 2016, read Chievo in 2018. A 5-1 rout at Verona, with a hat-trick in the mercurial Ilicic, established the first of four consecutive wins which obtained Atalanta back on track.
You will find additional blips before the midway stage of this season however, by that point, Duvan Zapata was at the goalscoring form of his lifetime, netting 14 occasions in eight matches.
He created it 15 in eight together with the equaliser at a remarkable match with top-four competitions Roma on January 27 at Bergamo, when Atalanta came from 3-0 down to maintain a draw.
It was at the point, as Timothy Castagne confessed that the players started to believe like anything was possible. Three days after, Atalanta stopped Juventus’ four-year stranglehold on that the Coppa Italia.
They did not only beat the Bianconeri possibly; they battered themshowcasing their Ajax-like new assaulting football at a rousing 3-0 win.
Gasperini confessed that for nearly all his training career he’d been too dogmatic in his approach; overly preoccupied with keeping numerical excellence in defence.
Now, however, he’s well prepared to take risks, in spite of a’smaller’ side. “Just because you are humble, does not mean that you can not be rough,” he concluded. “I strongly believe you’re more inclined to get excellent results if you perform great football.”
His Atalanta facet — constituted of wise signings and graduates out of arguably the very best youth academy in Italy — are aesthetically pleasing as they encounter, an adventuresome outfit keen to go one-v-one in the trunk.
Gasperini trusts in such players. He believes in them. None over simply his skipper, Alejandro Gomez.
At 31 years old,’Papu’ is enjoying with the finest football of the livelihood. No participant across Europe’s’Big Five’ leagues created more opportunities than the last year (112).
Zapata might have captured more headlines due to his goalscoring exploits but Papu was the person who made it happen on the area.
He played a vital role off it as well. With his mixture of dedication and inspiration, the attacking midfielder embodies Atalanta’s impressive durability, their devotion to the collective cause. He’s, as Gasperini calls him”Atalanta’s Ronaldo”.
Nobody chooses his role seriously in Bergamo compared to Gomez. The Copenhagen blow off, coupled with the fact that he had overlooked one of those penalties, just made him more determined to have Atalanta straight back to Europe.
As he stated at one stage last year,”I spend time [my team-mates] compared to my loved ones!”
That feeling of togetherness, and induce, was evident throughout Atalanta’s remarkable run-in.
Between March and May, they did not lose one Serie A match. Even more impressively, during this 13-game unbeaten run, they twice came from behind to conquer top-four sides away from home: Napoli and Lazio.
Additionally they attracted with Juventus in Turin before beating Sassuolo on that the last day of the year to clinch their place in the Champions League with a third-place finish.
To put above Inter and AC Milan was a staggering achievement for a team with only the 13th-highest wage bill at Serie A, which makes them arguably the largest over-achievers at Europe.
“It is indisputable that attaining Champions League qualification with a provincial club is much more fulfilling,” Gasperini declared.
He might have left one of those big boys throughout the summertime. Roma were especially enthusiastic but Gasperini chose to stay put. It’s easy to know why. He’s loved at Atalanta and, over the summer, he had been made an honorary citizen of Bergamo.
Gasperini and his players are now decided to repay this love by light up the Champions League.
“we would like to provide the people of Bergamo excitement and joy since throughout this entire narrative,” he said,”what moved us was seeing joy in the eyes of the lovers.”
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Wednesday night’s match in Zagreb isalso, therefore, destined to become an emotional event for those fans, the players and the coaching team.
Atalanta have arrived. With big ideas and a good deal of vision.
They ought to do nicely here.