The Atalanta boys’ bid for a fifth straight Serie A success was off to a great start as we moved into 2028 top of the league still unbeaten.
Another big outgoing transfer came in January as we sold our captain Tiago Frasco to Real Madrid for £23 million. His contract was running down, his ability had dwindled and so I decided to cash in while I could.
We shelled out £10 million, which could grow to £25 million, for 16-year-old goalkeeper Christopher Onovo from Fiorentina. We also snapped up exciting young Russian striker Daniil Kirichenko, among another batch of new wonderkids coming into the club.
And the great form continued with four straight league wins before drawing 2-2 at home to AC Milan, in which we threw away a two-goal lead late on, then by the same scoreline at Inter Milan thanks to two goals by young striker Mustafa Gunduz.
Four more league wins followed, including winning at AS Roma with a brace from young striker Mert Uysal then beating Fiorentina at home and a brace from Cosimo Marco Da Graca secured a 2-1 victory over high-flying Salernitana – who at that point were up in third in the league.
The unbeaten league form continued all the way through to mid-March, when we lost 3-1 at SPAL. But we bounced back by hammering Palermo 6-0 thanks to a hat-trick from another young striker Dimba.
Two more big victories saw us overcome Udinese and Juventus, with Da Graca scoring in seven straight league matches – including a hat-trick against Udinese. The Italy striker had been in inspired form, which saw him once again break the Serie A goalscoring record and break his record for most goals in a season for Atalanta.
As a result of this great form, we secured the league title in April. That was a fifth straight title in the bag!
The first knockout round of the Champions Cup saw us drawn with Borussia Dortmund. A 2-1 away win set us up nicely and we progressed with another 2-1 win at home, with goals from Da Graca and young holding midfielder Ibrahima Ly.
Our reward for that was once again being drawn with Real Madrid. And we got off to a great start with a superb 3-1 win at the Bernabeu through goals from the strikeforce of Da Graca and Dimba, plus midfielder Matteo Giacalone – despite only having six shots to their 27. And a 0-0 draw at home saw us safely through to the semi-finals.
That saw us drawn against Barcelona, who we took on for the first time in the save, and something truly remarkable happened. Dimba had an absolute blinder in the first leg, scoring four times as we thrashed Barca 6-0. That result had us virtually through to the Final, and we progressed despite losing the away leg 2-0.
The Final saw us take on a strong Tottenham Hotspur side, who still had Dele Alli and Harry Kane as well as our former winger Alessandro Zanelli. They got off to a good start with a goal from wonderkid winger Greg Hendrie, but we equalised through young Colombian attacking midfielder Luis Collazos. Kane struck just before the hour mark, Da Graca equalised with 20 minutes remaining, but Alli broke Atalanta hearts with an 87th-minute winner.
The summer of 2028 saw us go to the European Championships with Italy, drawn in a group alongside Spain, Denmark and Slovakia. A 4-4 draw in a warm-up friendly didn’t bode well, but we did have a few players short on fitness and I was confident of progression from the group.
We got off to a good start in the opener against Denmark, with Pietro Pellegri and Nicolo Barella putting us into a 2-0 first-half lead. But the Danes fought back with a brace from Pione Sisto – who’s still playing for Celta Vigo.
Next up was Spain and we again took the lead through Giacalone, they equalised through Real Madrid wonderkid Walid Saykat, but we nicked all three points with an injury-time goal by centre-back Riccardo Piccione. And we secured qualification with a superb 4-1 win over Slovakia, in which not very Italian sounding Roma left winger Joe Miller had a blinder, scoring twice and setting up another.
The second round saw us go up against Austria, and we snuck through with a 1-0 win thanks to Da Graca’s first-half goal. That put us through to the quarter-final, where we took on Denmark again. Miller put us ahead on the hour mark, Kasper Dolberg equalised 10 minutes later, only for Pellegri to seal a narrow win with 7 minutes remaining.
The semi-finals served up an absolute classic against England. Winger Paul Kinlan put them ahead after 5 minutes, only for Zanelli to go down the other end from the kick-off and equalise. Callum Hudson-Odoi put England back in front, then Miller equalised and Zanelli scored on a counter-attack from an England corner to put us ahead. Pellegri added another just before half-time to send us into a 4-2 lead, then Zanelli wrapped up his hat-trick with a penalty 10 minutes after the break. A 5-3 win put us into the Final!
And the good performances continued as we went up against Portugal. Once again we conceded early but responded immediately, this time through Da Graca. His strike partner Pellegri put us ahead just after the half-hour mark, then Zanelli doubled the lead on the stroke of half-time. Portugal halved the lead after an hour, but our own man Giacalone sealed victory with a penalty 10 minutes later.
We were Champions of Europe!
The success saw me enter the European hall of fame, as well as being the second best English manager of all time behind Bob Paisley.
The next blog will take a look back at how things have changed during 10 years at Atalanta.