Atalanta showcased the talents of Andrea Consigli, Federico Peluso and Ezequiel Schelotto last season. Antonio Labbate looks at the latest Bergamo gem making an impact this time around.
It was Federico Peluso’s last day at Zingonia, Atalanta’s training facility. With a January switch to Juventus finalised, he cleared out his locker, said farewell to his teammates and told Giacomo Bonaventura that he would be the next Nerazzurro to move on to a higher level.
“I don’t think so,” the midfielder stated modestly at the start of this year. “I‘m just thinking about this team and doing well here in Bergamo. Atalanta have given me a lot and I want to pay them back for that. The moment when I can start dreaming about a big club has still not arrived.”
The summer months will answer the question of whether Bonaventura will indeed be transferred, but the fact that his agent is so willing to respond to the increasing speculation regarding the 23-year-old underlines that he has, at least, made it on to the radar of some of Italy’s leading sides.
Bonaventura, contracted until 2016, has done that thanks to an impressive campaign in the Italian top flight. After tasting Serie A with regularity for the first time last season, a year after helping the club to promotion, Jack, as he is known, has been able to make a much more telling contribution in 2012-13.
His six goals in 27 games may not raise too many eyebrows, but, apart from the 4-1 loss at Fiorentina, all his strikes have come in games which have delivered the three points. And while his net-rippler in the 3-2 defeat of Inter was his most high-profile, his brace in the 2-0 win over Siena recently were his most crucial. Atalanta took a big step towards safety on that afternoon in Tuscany and Bonaventura took another small one towards wider recognition.
Bonaventura, clocked as a 12-year-old by the club, has been at Zingonia since the age of 15 after impressing the outfit’s talent scout Antonio Bongiorni – a man who also delivered Atalanta the likes of Giampaolo Pazzini and Riccardo Montolivo. After learning spells at Pergocrema and Padova, he’s been a stable part of La Dea’s side since his return in 2010. Now, less than three years later, he’s seeing his name linked with Juventus.
“I supported them as a boy and Alessandro Del Piero was my idol. However, there is a big difference between talk of a transfer and one actually occurring,” the grounded youngster underlined. “A big team will give you the opportunity to win honours, but the affection of people here is incredible and celebrating survival would be like lifting a trophy.”
Bonaventura clearly has talent, but joining a big club too soon could be a mistake of irreparable damage. His ability and his margins of improvement are there for all to see, but he could be potentially joining a club, where first team football is not guaranteed, with the added question mark over his best role.
Boss Stefano Colantuono has primarily used the No 10 as a left sided midfielder in his 4-4-1-1 this season, but he has been asked to play as a Trequartista at times. One such occasion was at Milan in Week 3 when the tactician, somewhat dubiously, switched Bonaventura with Maxi Moralez. Atalanta won 1-0.
“You have to adapt in today’s football,” he states when asked about his use this term. “At this point in time I think that I can play as a left-sided midfielder and I’m happy with that. However, one day I’d like the opportunity to play five games in a row as a Trequartista. Or even in a three-man midfield…”
Versatility, however, can be a dangerous attribute. Although it can open up more first team opportunities, it can also hinder the progression of a player in one particular role. A Jack of all trades, master of none scenario? Look at former Italian international Stefano Fiore or, more recently, even Antonio Candreva at Lazio. Good players for sure, but perhaps stunted in their potential.
It was Colantuono who came up with the wide midfield role for Bonaventura, but only after consulting Carlo Sabatini, Giacomo’s Coach during his spell with Padova. “He was seen as a Trequartista when he arrived,” Sabatini recalled. “But there was the presumption back then that he could play as a winger as well because of his offensive capabilities.
“When he returned to Bergamo, Colantuono contacted me and asked if he thought he could do a job on the left. I said that he’d probably have a few defensive difficulties at first, but, with hard work, he could become a fine player in that role. He can get eight or nine goals a season from there.”
Bonaventura may still be looking for an established position in Serie A, but Sabatini is convinced that the boy can be counted on to do a job at the highest level – for club and country – in the immediate. “He’s matured under Colantuono and I think he is ready for a big transfer. I also believe that Cesare Prandelli will soon start to consider him for the national team.”
Prandelli, nevertheless, finds himself in a similar situation to the clubs who are being linked with his services. Although the Coach has admitted that he is keeping an eye on a number of Atalanta players, he has no real need for a left-sided midfielder right now. He does need a Trequartista, clearly, but he can’t justify trying out an inexperienced player in that delicate area who has only been used in that role on five occasions this term.
Patience is what is required when it comes to Bonaventura. He needs time to find his true calling, games to prove himself, at least another campaign or two in Bergamo to continue developing. Only once he’s had his season of true consecration should he look to the big hitters in Serie A and the blue jersey of his nation. A move before then and it’ll be a gamble for all involved.