Atalanta’s impressive third place finish last term earned them an historic Champions League qualification, but La Dea can write yet more history on Wednesday.
Gian Piero Gasperini’s men need to win against Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine and at the same time hope that already qualified Manchester City don’t lose against Dinamo Zagreb. At first glance, the scenario seems unlikely, but it could very well happen, as Atalanta already proved they can hold their own in the group.
While reaching the knockout stage would be an unbelievable achievement, it’s safe to say Atalanta already proved their worth in the competition regardless of the outcome of tomorrow’s game.
It’s easy to criticise Gasperini’s team, especially after their horrendous start and the 4-0 beating that they suffered against Dinamo in Zagreb. However, it’s also easy to forget that this is La Dea’s debut in the competition, which in itself is already a remarkable achievement.
In their second game, Atalanta scored their first goal, then earned their first point and eventually registered their first victory when they beat the Croats in the return leg in Milan.
The gradual growth after each game has not only earned La Dea this golden opportunity, but it has already proved that their participation in the Champions League was not a waste for Serie A.
In fact, if Atalanta reach the last 16 on Wednesday, the magnitude of their achievement would go beyond the realms of the Province of Bergamo and even Italy, as no team has managed to qualify after losing their first three games.
While dreaming never hurts, the Nerazzurri should be more than happy with what they achieved already, as the experience that Gasperini’s men have gained is already starting to show.
Ever since the point against Manchester City, the Atalanta players have seemed more confident and more composed even in tense situations and this was fully evident in their victory over Dinamo.
Some will say that experience is good, but money is better, so financially the Champions League will have a huge impact on Atalanta’s books at the end of the season. Only for reaching the group stage, La Dea already earned €15m, while their victory against Dinamo earned them an additional €2.7m.
This means that even if Atalanta finish bottom of their group, they would have earned around €20m, which might not be a huge amount for the likes of Juventus, but is a small fortune for the side from Bergamo.
Considering how intelligently this outfit has invested in recent years, this might prove to be a big boost for Italian football. Every year, Atalanta are spending a significant chunk of their budget for developing their academy, which is now among the best not only in Italy, but in Europe as well.
The global exposure that a team like Atalanta gets is also important for Serie A, as in recent years foreign fans have often associated the league only with Juventus, as the other big teams have regularly underachieved. In that regard, having a team that is not so popular outside of Italy doing well in Europe, significantly improves the image of the league.
Last but not least, let’s not forget that Atalanta might also end up in the Europa League, which would probably be a deserved outcome and will give Atalanta the chance to continue their European campaign.
Considering all this, we can conclude that regardless of the outcome on Wednesday evening, Atalanta cannot lose. Gasperini’s men have already earned their first win, valuable experience and worldwide respect for the club, while their exciting game style, investments in the youth sector and stadium infrastructure prove that Atalanta have already emerged as winners from their Champions League adventure.