Gasperini, the game in front of the players

In Gian Piero Gasperini, priority is given to the game, to the field. Proof of this is the dismissal of his star “Papu” Gomez instead of abandoning the ideas that led him to Real Madrid, who is expected Wednesday in Bergamo (9 pm, on RMC Sport) in the knockout stages of the Champions League.

Real or not, “We will not deny,” promised Gian Piero Gasperini, the oldest technician still in the Champions League (63 years old), who started his coaching career (with Juventus youth) last year. Which Zinedine Zidane carried on the French national team shirt for the first time, in 1994. After Ajax and four C1s, then Liverpool and his six titles in the group stage, it is Zidane’s big turn, with his stars and the thirteen European Champions League. Winners, for landing in Bergamo.

These notable opponents are increasingly embracing the growth of an Italian “regional” team that has become one of the best teams in Italy (three times in the Italian top 4 league in the past four seasons). Europe has also learned to recognize and appreciate “Dea”, who last year climbed in the quarter-finals against Paris Saint-Germain, for his first appearance in C1, after beating Valencia (4-1, 4-3). ) At prices.

Gomez case

So it is not really surprising to find the Lombard team in the top 16, thanks in particular to two big away wins in the group stages in Liverpool (2-0) and then Amsterdam (1-0). Atalanta is dealing with this eighth place without excessive hopes against the candidates from Real Madrid, but without losing to Real, who showed weaknesses in the group stage, by losing to Shachtor Donetsk (2-3, 0-2).

“It’s going to be two games. We’d love to get to Madrid for the return trip and have a chance to play,” says Gasperini, who has been on the bench since 2016, the one who has made Bergamo team grow. Without stars, but with two players who focus entirely on fast-passing, racing and especially goal opposing. The white-cheeked coach and strong personality, whom Italian league referees regularly request to protest (on Sunday, he was excluded from the Napoli match), has become over the season the strongman of Atalanta.

Alejandro “Papo” Gomez, himself the club’s motto, learned it the hard way in December. For opposing his coach’s tactical options, the Argentine was sidelined and then asked to find another club, which he did in January when he joined Sevilla.

“Free of my choices”

“Gomez a été pour nous le joueur le plus important des cinq dernières années, mais je dois penser à ce qui est le mieux pour l’équipe”, avait décrété Gasperini, qui a depuis confié les clés du jeu au jeune Italien Matteo Pessina, 23 years. “I have to be free of my choices, with the players, according to the matches. It is a principle that cannot be ignored,” he also referred to the “moments” during this turbulent period, where his resignation was mentioned even before he was put down.

After emerging from this first public crisis in quiet Atlanta, he must now show that his choices have been the right thing. Many Bergamasco supporters first dream of a title, to crown this auspicious period. This will be May’s biggest deal with the Coppa Italia final against Juventus.

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As for the Champions League? “We can’t win it, but if it passes a round against Real, that would be really unbelievable,” greedy Gasperini admitted. Who, in September, was ranked fifth in the UEFA’s Best Coaches of the Year ranking, ahead of Zinedine Zidane (8).

Tess Larson

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