Best of 2019: Atalanta's Rise to the Champions League
The pride of Bergamo's miracle run from Serie A afterthought to European football.
By no means a big club from a big city, Atalanta has a strong connection and affinity with the community of Bergamo.
To that end, qualification for this season’s Champions League after finishing third on the Serie A table was much more than an achievement for the football club. According to manager Gian Piero Gasperini, it was an achievement for everyone within Bergamo, football fan or not:
I think this is a reward for the whole city. And there's another thing, don't thank me, thank the players, because they have been extraordinary.
Despite finishing seventh and fourth in the previous two seasons before going to third, Atalanta remained something of an afterthought. That was a fair assessment as Atalanta spent much of the first half of last season in the bottom half of the table, some of it just above the relegation places.
Then something close to a miracle unfolded.
The middling form gave way to a 21-game run that featured just two losses, with Atalanta closing the season on a 13-game unbeaten streak.
What they managed to do with their level of performances throughout the year is exceptional. It is really difficult. Maybe we were a bit lucky at not having injuries, but they have been fantastic.
While Atalanta fans eagerly awaited the start of the Champions League campaign, they also awaited news of manager Gian Piero Gasperini’s future. Linked with the vacancy at Roma, Gasperini had indicated he would talk to his Atalanta bosses before any decision about his future was determined.
Having worked for three seasons to reach the Champions League, Gasperini led Atalanta to last season’s Coppa Italia Final and he committed through to 2022.
Atalanta forward Alejandro Gomez putting it perfectly:
It is an amazing cycle, and this is the way it was supposed to end, making it to the Champions League. It is something unique, we are taking this club and this city where nobody thought it would have been possible.
Only those from Bergamo, the loyal and devoted fans of Atalanta, would have thought such a season would be possible.
To that end, Atalanta qualifying for this season’s Champions League was seen as an achievement for everyone within Bergamo, football fan or not.