Atalanta are looking up, after five successive Serie A wins has seen the Orobici’s ambitions rise from avoiding relegation to making a late challenge for a Europa League spot.
The Nerazzurri are currently sat in seventh place after 30 games and are only four points off Europa League qualification after impressive victories against fellow European challengers Lazio and Inter.
While Atalanta may find a top six finish a step too far this season, they have been able to maintain a high level of stability which could give themselves an advantage over several of their rivals.
After bouncing between Italy’s top two divisions for a number of years, the return of president Antonio Percassi and head coach Stefano Colantuono in 2010 has seen La Dea re-establish themselves as Serie A regulars after they secured promotion for Serie B in their first season back in charge.
Colantuono has been crucial to Atalanta’s consolidation in the top flight and as a result has been consistently linked with moves to bigger clubs. However the 51-year-old tactician has been loyal to the Bergamo outfit and is currently the club’s longest serving coach since Battista Rota in 1976.
But another man who deserves recognition for his work at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia is director general Pierpaolo Marino.
The Avellino native is arguably the finest director of sport currently working in Serie A and can be considered to be a huge contributing factor to Atalanta’s rise from relegation contenders to mid-table safety following his arrival in the summer of 2011.
Marino first came to prominence as a talented technical director at Napoli where during his first spell they signed Diego Maradona and won their first Scudetto. He left the Partenopei in 1987 after the club’s owner at the time, Corrado Ferlaino, chose the then emerging Luciano Moggi to replace his right-hand man, Italo Allodi.
After spells co-ordinating Roma and Peacara’s transfer strategies and a stint as president of his hometown club, Avellino, between 1988 and 1991, Marino earned further admirers when he become the director of sport at Udinese in 1996. During his time in Udine he built a team over eight years that first qualified for the UEFA Cup and then finished third in Serie A, making it into the Champions League.
Marino was then recalled back to Campania by Aurelio De Laurentiis to rebuild Napoli after bankruptcy and subsequent decline to Serie C1. With the backing of the movie mogul, he masterminded the Azzurri’s rapid rise up the divisions back to the top half of Serie A in less than five years and in the process also launched the careers of Marek Hamsik and Ezequiel Lavezzi.
Now at Atalanta, the experienced 59-year-old has continued to showcase his ability to assemble a talented side.
Marino has built up a balanced squad that contains experienced campaigners such as Mario Yepes and Guglielmo Stendardo, but the director general has also been integral in ensuring that top talents such as Giacomo Bonaventura and Andrea Consigli stay at the club longer than many would have expected.
This importance of stability both on and off the pitch looks to be benefiting the Bergamaschi and with the players responding well to the direction the club is being taken in, a move away to a top club is not as straight forward a decision as it once would have been.
While the Atalanta players and Colantuono definitely deserve praise and plaudits for their recent run, it is important not to undervalue the work that Marino is putting in off the pitch in order to make this happen.