Atalanta Club Focus: Where are the children of the revolution?
After Atalanta’s 2-1 home win over Pescara on Sunday the Bergamo club’s Serie A status is all but secured for yet another season. La Dea are currently 14th in the league and nine points above Siena in the relegation zone.
Despite starting the season with yet another points penalty a relegation battle was not what the Orobici tifosi were expecting. A respectable mid-table finish seemed a realistic goal, and Stefano Colantuono’s side looked to be on track until the beginning of December.
Although the campaign is not quite over yet, a respectable mid-table finish could be a big ask considering the Nerazzurri will have to face Napoli, Internazionale, Fiorentina and Juventus over the course of the next ten rounds.
With very little to play for this season, the Bergamo club should be looking to use this time to focus on the future and build on their squad for next season.
Atalanta have always been known as selling club and some things will never change, but in previous years the players that had left the club had been replaced with either more exciting youth prospects, promoted from their world renowned Primavera set up or by relatively unknown foreign imports, talented hidden gems that had been found through detailed scouting systems from around the world.
This season, Atalanta failed to replace the players that left with adequate replacements. Three Italy internationals left the Bergamo club over the past year in the form of 29-year old Federico Peluso (loan with permanent option), 23-year old Ezequiel Schelotto and 21-year old Manolo Gabbiadini (co-ownership). These top quality players all left for bigger teams and without doubt the moves have furthered their respective careers.
33-year old Matteo Contini was drafted in from Serie A strugglers Siena while 33- year old Franco Brienza joined from relegation favourites Palermo, added to these was 34-year old Lionel Scaloni from Lazio. These are hardly players to help build for the future.
Not all the transfer dealings were bad news for the Bergamo side, the talented 19-year old Croatian Marko Livaja has hit the ground running since his arrival from Inter.
What seems to be rubbing the Atalanta fans up the wrong way, is the way in which these over the hill players are used, rather than being considered as fringe players that can be used for their experience to hold onto leads or to use their wise heads to see out the later stages of games. These ‘has-beens’ have been looked upon by Colantuono as first team players that the side is built around.
For over 30 years Atalanta’s Primavera has produced some of the biggest names in world football and that has not changed. Their current Primavera side are six points clear at the top of their league with a game in hand having lost only once all season. But the alarming thought is how many of these talented young individuals will have the chance to don the Nerazzurri shirt at senior level in the coming years?
Currently only Giacomo Bonaventura, Gianpaolo Bellini and Andrea Consigli from Atalanta’s 30 man squad have came through from their Primavera set up. Davide Brivio and Michele Canini, who have both now re-joined the club, were also products of the Primavera system.
Gabbiadini left Atalanta as part of a co-ownership deal for Juventus but was immediately loaned out to Bologna “to gain first team experience”. It is hard to believe that the powers that be at Atalanta felt that one of the hottest prospects in italian football would not be required in Bergamo. Without question, if the young striker had remained at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia and he had shown the form that he has found for the Rossoblu he would already be considered a first team player for La Dea.
The list of bright young talent on offer in Bergamo is endless but these youngsters don’t seem to be what Colantuono is looking for, even the highly rated Giuseppe De Luca has found it hard to hold down a regular first team role.
Liverpool legend and BBC football pundit Alan Hansen famously once said “you can’t win anything with kids.” His comments were aimed at Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and his youthful and inexperienced team. That same team went on to complete a league and cup double that season.
No one is expecting Atalanta to field a side of teenagers that go on to win the Scudetto but it would be nice for younger players to be given more of a chance at the top level in Italy.
Across the peninsular players do continue their careers until a later age in life than they do elsewhere in Europe and clubs tend to put less faith in youth prospects. But a club like Atalanta would be ideal to help buck the trend and bring on the new stars of tomorrow. “You can’t win anything with kids.” … but maybe they might achieve a little more than a successful relegation dog fight.