Many Atalanta players impressed at EURO 2020 and Giancarlo Rinaldi believes even Gian Piero Gasperini’s playing style had an impact on the continental tournament.
For a side that has suffered more Serie A relegations than most, it is quite a transformation. Sitting watching EURO 2020 in the bars of Bergamo, fans of la Dea could regularly nod their heads in appreciation. This little club from Lombardy has been punching well above its weight this summer.
To give you an idea of the significance of that contribution, you only need to look at the stats. By the time the tournament reached its final act, Atalanta players had played a part in (with a goal or assist) not far off 10% of its goals. Eight different players had either found the net or set up a teammate to strike. In the standings for clubs which had seen their players score, they were behind only Juventus, Inter and Manchester City in terms of their contribution. The Giampiero Gasperini coached talent factory is showing no signs of slowing down production.
Many heads were turned – and quite rightly – in the early phases by the form of flying full-back Denzel Dumfries for the Netherlands. However, as the competition evolved, he was surely caught up and overtaken (at least metaphorically) by Denmark’s Joakim Maehle. His mouthwatering assist in a quarter-final win over the Czech Republic had potential suitors googling directions to the Gewiss Stadium.
And Italy’s run to the final, too, had more than a hint of black and blue about it, with Matteo Pessina proving to be something of a joker and contributing some vital goals. Add to that the rugged presence of Rafael Toloi, an uncompromising new addition to the Azzurri side, and you had a couple of important cogs in Roberto Mancini’s squad. No longer able to rely on a strong “block” from any one of Serie A’s giants, he has shopped around wisely to pick out the best pieces that Italy’s top division had to offer.
Everywhere you looked, it seemed, there was a flash of Atalanta. Robin Gosens helped Germany get out of the group of death before elimination at the hands of England. Remo Freuler was one of the most consistent performers in a Swiss side that got further than most expected. Martin De Roon for the Netherlands, Ukraine’s Ruslan Malinovskyi and Aleksey Miranchuk for Russia all had solid campaigns. Even Mario Pasalic made his mark with a goal despite only being given a paltry 46 minutes or so to shine for Croatia.
Tactically, too, there were hints of Gasp’s Army about the competition if you cared to look. Their favoured 3-4-1-2 and 3-4-2-1 formations were employed by about a third of teams at Euro 2020 at one stage or another. It allowed the likes of Maehle and Gosens to replicate their club roles for their respective countries. Those flying wide men – so central to the Bergamo side’s success – became a familiar sight at venues dotted across the continent.
Those with a wider vision of their football will have spotted that the Atalanta influence extended way beyond Europe. Cristian Romero played a key part in helping Argentina fend off the attacking threat of Brazil to secure a momentous Copa America win for his country too. Another badge of approval for the work being carried out by his Serie A side.
The drawback, of course, is that the secrets of their success – if there are any left – have attracted the eyes of bigger outfits. No doubt there will be many more millions poured into the coffers over the next few weeks as a few prized assets go. But the Bergamaschi have shown that they have a surprising ability to refill their talent tank with more quality products in recent years. It means that we might be toasting their players at major tournaments for quite some time to come.