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Written By Onyeka Daniel

It was a thrilling game at the Aviva stadium in Dublin as Atalanta got the better of newly crowned Bundesliga champions, Bayer Leverkusen in the final of the Europa League to lift their first major trophy in eight years.

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The Germans, who were on an unbeaten run, were the favourites going into the showdown in Dublin and people were already talking about them achieving an unbeaten Treble, as they triumphed in the Bundesliga and will play Kaiserslautern in the German Cup Final on Saturday.

However, Ademola Lookman bagged a hat-trick and Juan Musso was barely ever tested in this extraordinary evening for La Dea, who emerged 3-0 winners. For Atalanta coach, Gian Piero Gasperini, he confessed that he is tempted by the Napoli offer. ‘It’s like being married with children, but you meet a beautiful woman.’


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The coach has been In Bergamo for eight years and is under contract until June 2025, though there had recently been discussions about extending it even further. He had never won a single piece of silverware in his career, losing three editions of the Coppa Italia Final, but tonight crushed Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 to give La Dea their first ever UEFA trophy.

Speaking to Sky Sport Italia from Dublin, Gasperini was asked if he is staying with Atalanta next season.“We are celebrating tonight, I will talk to the President tomorrow. We’ll see,” he replied. “I am in an odd situation sort of like where I am married with children, but meet an absolutely beautiful woman. Maybe that’s not a good example for me to say on television!”

The Sky Sport Italia pundits laughed and tried to make sure Gasperini won’t be relegated to the couch when he gets home, suggesting instead that he has a nice family home, but has been offered a penthouse apartment in the city centre with terrace. “That might be better!”

Gasperini is no longer even trying to deny that he is giving serious thought to the Napoli proposal from President Aurelio De Laurentiis to completely rebuild the club along with new director of sport Giovanni Manna. He had also said a few days ago that it was not about money or contracts, but “the challenge” that intrigued him.

Perhaps winning the Europa League is therefore the best way to leave Atalanta after eight years when he transformed them from relegation strugglers to UEFA tournament Victor’s. They had already qualified for the Champions League even before winning this trophy and could still finish as high as third in Serie A.

Regarding his tactics to neutralize the opponent, he had these to say; “We watched their games, we studied all their approaches and the two matches in the semi-final against Roma really helped too,” Gasperini said. “We had also played against them two years ago in the Europa League Round of 16, we did well and there are still six or seven players from that squad.

“Xabi Alonso arrived and did an extraordinary job, but we knew that there were ways of causing problems for them. “Our gameplan worked from start to finish and these lads were extraordinary. Lookman scored three wonderful goals, when he arrived he was not quite a striker, more of a winger, but his best qualities are near the goal.

“He has this immediacy in taking the shot, scored a lot of goals last season, was missing for a long time due to the Africa Cup of Nations, but was decisive recently too.” He further added. With this triumph, they will play either Real Madrid or Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Super Cup on August 14 in Warsaw, plus the new UEFA-CONMEBOL Club Challenge.

The UEFA-CONMEBOL Club Challenge will pit the winners of the Europa League against the victors of the Copa Sudamericana.It was Introduced last year, with Sevilla beating Independiente del Valle on penalties after a 1-1 draw in the last edition. Although yet to be formally organised, Atalanta’s opponents will be LDU de Quito.

Meanwhile…

Bayer Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso acknowledged Atalanta were simply superior in every way during the Europa League Final, as the 51-game unbeaten run was ended. ‘We could not cope.’ “We did not plan on having a bad day today, but it was not meant to be,” Xabi Alonso told TNT Sports.

“We could not cope with many difficult situations that we were preparing because Atalanta demand so much of you. One v one situations, duels, but we were not getting the ball in the right situations to take advantage. They do that so well.” Leverkusen managed to many late comebacks this season to keep their 51-match streak going, but when Lookman added a third, it was over.

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“We were not able to come back and get that back. It was not meant to be. The unbeaten run has come to an end but congratulations to Atalanta, they deserve it, so nothing more to say.” Atalanta surprised by going all-attack with Gianluca Scamacca, Teun Koopmeiners, Lookman and Charles De Ketelaere together, but it paid off, as they were dominant.

“Yes I would say so. When they scored the first goal they got a lot of energy. We probably tried to play too many passes in the first phase when we should have tried to attract the first player then go long a bit more,” confessed Xabi Alonso.

“It was not about tactics. Individually they were better and as a team as well. We have to learn from that. It hurts that it comes in a big day like today but we have another final on Saturday and we will try to learn from today.” He further added.

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