Gian Piero Gasperini confirms Aleksei Miranchuk is an alternative to Josip Ilicic, who is still absent, and warns Atalanta ‘cannot set targets like the Scudetto.’
La Dea finished third for two seasons running and reached the Champions League quarter-finals in their first attempt, so with players like Lokomotiv Moscow midfielder Miranchuk and possibly Juventus-owned defender Cristian Romero coming in, they are getting increasingly ambitious.
“We want to improve, get stronger and achieve better results. Our aim is to do as well as possible and build on previous seasons,” said the coach in his press conference.
“I hear some claiming we ought to aim for the Scudetto, but we cannot set targets like that. These are just in the minds of the media and their imagination.
“It’s important that we start with the same desire to amaze. It’s difficult to evaluate how the season will go, as it sounds as if we’re resuming where we left off, behind closed doors and playing every three days. There’s going to be a lot of uncertainty.”
Ilicic remains absent from the Atalanta pre-season training group, having missed the last couple of months due to personal matters.
“At this moment, Ilicic is not part of the squad, but we are waiting for him. We signed Miranchuk as a substitute for Ilicic, even if he is not an understudy to Ilicic as such. I had already asked for a similar figure before the start of last season, because we knew that Ilicic couldn’t play every game and we didn’t have someone with his characteristics.
“The Russian is young, talented, has an injury that might keep him out for a few weeks, but we mustn’t expect an immediate impact.”
There are reports Atalanta will also bring in centre-back Romero from Juventus, after his loan at Genoa.
“Romero isn’t ours yet, but the club is in talks. Atalanta are doing everything possible to strengthen the squad and we do need alternatives in every area when there are games every three days.
“Having said that, I am not a fan of squad rotation, as changing five or six players every time is the antithesis of seeking form.”
Hans Hateboer caused controversy when he told Dutch media that he had done all he could with Atalanta and wanted a new challenge.
“I thought Hateboer’s comments were very unpleasant. I appreciated Rafael Toloi and Papu Gomez, who said they wanted to be stronger than ever and represent our spirit. It’s very dangerous for a group to rest on its laurels.”