Bergamo production line provides Atalanta with fresh batch of young talent
One criticism often thrown at Italian clubs is that they fail to develop their own players properly. However, the same cannot be said for Atalanta.
Few clubs in Italy bring through players to their first team from their youth academy quite as often as Atalanta. The provincial side from Bergamo, in the administrative region of Lombardy, are famed on the peninsula for their ability to, time and time again, produce wonderfully gifted footballers and nurturing them until they are ready to move on to pastures new.
A club who has never won the Scudetto, and only ever claimed one Coppa Italia triumph and lifted the Serie B trophy on a handful of occasions, La Dea take great pride in their seemingly endless ability to bring through talented youngsters.
Going back slightly further, Giacomo Bonaventura, Riccardo Montolivo, Marco Motta, Simone Padoin, Manolo Gabbiadini, Giampaolo Pazzini, Andrea Consigli, Rolando Bianchi and Simone Zaza have come through the Nerazzurri’s ranks, while even further back, Filippo Inzaghi and Roberto Donadoni are two of the most recognisable names to have received their early footballing education at the club.
Marco Sportiello and Andrea Conti could well be the next to move on to a bigger club with both linked with Napoli, but for now, the task facing Gian Piero Gasperini will be to replace those players who have already departed this summer. Marten de Roon and Luca Cigarini will likely be the most felt of those to have left, with youngsters already in place to fill the respective voids.
Franck Kessie, a 19-year-old defensive midfielder who has already been capped five times by the Ivory Coast, looks as though he will establish himself as a regular in Gasperini’s plans this season.
Kessie, who originally joined the Bergamaschi from Ivorian side Stella Club in 2015 spent the 2015/16 campaign making 37 appearances on loan at Cesena in Serie B.
Also looking ready to step up to more consistent first team action, if not a regular place in the starting XI is Roberto Gagliardini.
The 22-year-old Italy Under-21 international has been on the books with the Orobici for a number of years while enjoying spells on loan with Spezia, Cesena and Vicenza during this time.
Gagliardini was handed his Serie A debut for the club by Edy Reja in the final game of the 2015-16 season away to Genoa. The midfielder had previously been a part of the matchday squad several times, and with him remaining at the club through the summer, it looks as though he will be more involved this year.
Another joining the midfield is Leonardo Spinazzola, who returns to Bergamo for another loan spell from Juventus. The Siena and Juve academy graduate spent time with La Dea during the 2014-15 season, and now looks ready to kick start his Serie A career.
Opting to return to the Bergamaschi, presumably to assist in his development as an up and coming footballer, Spinazzola has joined on an initial two-year loan deal, which will present Atalanta with the option to purchase the player outright, while the Bianconeri will also have a buy-back option inserted in his contract.
Although on loan at Bari for the 2016/17 campaign, young forward Gaetano Monachello is another player who could play a starring role for Atalanta in the coming seasons.
The striker featured heavily in the club’s pre-season and ritoro, and the decision to allow him to leave on loan is a rather unusual one. With German Denis and Marco Borriello both leaving La Dea since January and Gasperini’s previous strained relationship with Mauricio Pinilla, Monachello’s importance to this team looked increasingly significant.
Even looking a little further beyond this season, there are a handful of other players who look almost ready to make the step into the first team. Exciting attacker Tiziano Tulissi has been loaned out to Modena for the coming campaign. Despite being just 19 years of age, Tulissi has been spoken about in glowing terms for what seems like a long time now. Furthermore, striker Lorenzo Pezzi could have a big future ahead of him, and will likely become a more familiar name to Serie A fans over the next few seasons.
While the mass exodus from Bergamo in 2016 might be a little concerning at first glance, the future, upon deeper examination is as bright as ever or La Dea.