13 Aug Atalanta’s magic season ended towards PSG, however their story’s removed from over
In a football sphere outlined and dominated by superclubs — whether or not legacy establishments or generously bankrolled nouveau riche — it is tempting to see the story of Atalanta because the traditional underdog story, utilizing ingenuity, creativity and, above all, fearlessness to shake up the established order in each the Champions League and Serie A. And since we have all turn into cynical and hard-hearted (hey, it is 2020) we’re not stunned they crashed again to earth when Paris Saint-Germain scored two late objectives to defeat Atalanta 2-1 within the quarterfinals of the Champions League.
Cash talks, besides it isn’t fairly like that.
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In the beginning, there is a legacy left behind. Anyone who watched Atalanta this season may have realized a distinct means of enjoying and profitable.
Supervisor Gian Piero Gasperini confirmed that with a little bit of group and a ton of braveness and self-belief, a team with restricted assets will be daring, entertaining and profitable. The easy notion of desirous to outscore and outwork and outrun always is massively liberating to any footballer. When dropped into the suitable framework, it turns common footballers into good ones, and good footballers into nice ones. The distinction between, say, a Duvan Zapata and a Harry Kane or Robert Lewandowski shouldn’t be as nice as we’re led to consider. Solely Manchester Metropolis and Bayern Munich — golf equipment with wage payments 10-15 occasions as excessive — outscored them in Europe’s Large 5 leagues this season.
There’s one thing to study right here. The previous notion whereby “you’ll be able to’t invent something new in football” has been debunked but once more.
However that is greater than only a sensible, if typically prickly and tough, supervisor and his footballing utopia come to life. It is also about catching lightning in a bottle, channelling a technique of deliberate development and sudden breaks by way of the filter of a proud and, frankly, distinctive metropolis and its fan base.
Bergamo sits a mere 15 miles away from Milan, dwelling to 2 of Italy’s three finest supported golf equipment, however has by no means allowed itself to be swallowed culturally or economically by Italy’s greatest, wealthiest metropolitan space. It is a place with its personal dialect, delicacies and sense of belonging: you have most likely heard the story how infants born within the province are given an Atalanta shirt and their mother and father requested to decide to elevating them as Atalanta followers.
“Individuals say we’ve got restricted assets, and positive, some are restricted, we won’t spend as a lot as others on salaries or transfer charges,” Gasperini stated after the PSG defeat. “However we’ve got different assets which are limitless on this metropolis. Issues like ardour, enthusiasm, a capability for laborious work. They matter too.”
Certainly they do. That is the bastion of the fightback towards the superclubs.
Atalanta is a membership that completed within the prime 4 in three of the previous 4 seasons. That is no one-hit marvel. It is a membership whose revenues have greater than quadrupled up to now 4 years. It is a membership that did what so few Italian teams have been unable to date to do: they constructed their very own stadium, shopping for it off the native municipality and reconstructing it, stand by stand. And this can be a membership whose present incarnation hasn’t exploited their greatest, historic energy: their youth academy.
Mattia Caldara was the one homegrown product on the pitch in the beginning of the sport on Wednesday, however up to now they’ve produced lots and there are lots extra within the pipeline. Gasperini’s choice with 10 minutes to go to ship on Jacopo Da Riva, a 19-year-old with a single minute of first team motion below his belt, was an indication of what is to come back.
The COVID-19 horror story that enveloped the town in March solely added a layer of pathos to their journey. Many, from followers to gamers, by no means needed to begin enjoying once more, not whereas the stench of loss of life and the ache of loss hung heavy over their metropolis’s turrets and alleys. At its lowest level, when the native paper’s obituary pages regarded like this, the notion of football appeared as distant as ever. However by the tip of March, the message had modified, superbly encapsulated by movies like this one: “I will be reborn … you may be reborn.”
It was towards this backdrop that Atalanta returned to play final month, rattling off their run to 3rd place in Serie A. And it was with the trauma of loss of life on their doorstep that they took the sphere towards PSG and, for 90 minutes, flirted with a spot in Europe’s Last 4.
Nonetheless, they had been smiling afterwards, from Gasperini to Mario Pasalic to Luca Percassi. They know what they achieved. They know what it means. They usually comprehend it will not finish right here. The instance they set, the teachings they taught football about self-belief and creativity, ingenuity and braveness, planning and laborious work, nicely, these will reside on regardless.