Last time I joked about becoming the greatest manager of all time at Atalanta. Well, we’ve made some progress towards that aim with Robi di Lathamé becoming the greatest English manager of all time – surpassing the achievements of a certain Bob Paisley.
We moved into 2029 sitting pretty at the top of Serie A on the back of eight straight victories. And more outgoings came before the football kicked off again.
Two more non-EU players were moved on, with Kleber going to Empoli for £10 million and Jose Paulo and Daniil Kiricheno – who I’m not convinced were any good anyway – both going to Manchester United for a combined £15 million. Centre forward Mert Uysal, who’d scored 4 goals in 18 games, went to Bayer Leverkusen for £2.5 million, taking our seasonal income to £132 million.
More youngsters arrived too, including exciting left-winger Lahcen Abdellaoui for an initial £9.5 million that could rise to £23.5 million – making him potentially our second most expensive signing ever. And another wonderkid arrived in attacking midfielder Alejandro for just £3 million from Villarreal.
The New Year began with more silverware as we defeated Lazio in the Italian Super Cup. Goals from captain Timmi Uldbjerg and Cosimo Marco Da Graca saw us move two goals ahead, and held on despite them getting a late equaliser. That saw us claim our fourth Super Cup in the last five seasons.
The winning streak ended with a 1-1 draw at Juventus then two solid wins over Pescara and Sampdoria were followed by an Italian Cup defeat at Salernitana in which I threw in the reserve team. A wild 3-3 draw at home to Fiorentina followed, in which we led twice through Dimba and German right-winger Alex Dongmo then they raced into a 3-2 lead only to score an own goal to gift us a point, before a 0-0 draw at AS Roma.
That little two-game blip sparked us into the kind of form that confirms Championship wins, with eight straight league wins. A big win in that run was a 3-1 win at Napoli thanks to goals from both wingers, Dongmo and Luis Collazos, before Da Graca sealed it.
That saw us stay top of the league three points clear of Inter Milan, who were clinging onto our coat-tails heading into a massive game at the Ivan Ruggeri Stadium on 31 March. It was, unsurprisingly, a very tight affair in which we only mustered 7 shots on target and had 5 players booked before Collazos went and got his second to put us down to ten men. I immediately went on the defensive given the attacking power that Inter had available to them – particularly the excellent Salvatore Tozzi. And I was delighted that it worked, seeing us to a 0-0 draw until the main man, the beautiful Cosimo popped up in the 92nd minute to head home a winner. What a massive win.
That big win was followed by two heavy victories inspired by consecutive hat-tricks. A 4-1 win at Pescara was inspired by a brilliant hat-trick from young Italian left-winger Godwin Okechukwu, who was just starting to fulfil his considerable potential, then a 5-0 spanking of Salernitana was thanks to a treble from Rob Lever, who’d stepped up as the box-to-box midfielder alongside Uldbjerg due to an injury to Matteo Giacalone.
A disappointing 1-1 draw at Cremonese was followed by a 2-0 win at home to Spezia thanks to Lever and Da Graca then a bizarre 2-0 defeat at Chievo Verona, in which we had 18 shots to their 5. A Classic FM-ing.
That put us within a point of the title, six points clear of Inter, going into a visit to the San Siro to face third-placed AC Milan. And boy did we step up to the challenge.
Milan went a goal ahead after 3 minutes only for Lever to once again get on the scoresheet 4 minutes later, but the game swung on a red card to Milan midfielder Matteo Lucci after just 20 minutes. The game remained 1-1 going into the break but we seized control in the second half, with Dimba’s 50th minute goal added to through Collazos and Da Graca. For the sixth straight time, Atalanta were Serie A champions!
Da Graca once again finished at the top of the Serie A goalscoring ranks, only beaten on games played by Juventus striker Cristian Bonotto.
The Champions Cup kicked into action once more with a first knockout round clash with Bayer Leverkusen. A 1-0 away win thanks to a Da Graca 82nd minute winner set us up nicely and we just about finished it off with a 2-2 home draw, in which they went ahead early before goals from Collazos and French centre-back Wesley Dondon.
Next up was another German side in Hertha BSC, who’ve become a real force in recent seasons. We again won 1-0 in the first leg, this time at home, and again through a late winner, this time from substitute Dimba. And we were in danger of exiting as Hertha won the second leg 1-0 to send the tie into extra-time. But the boys stepped up to the challenge as a 99th minute goal from Dongmo sent us through.
That put us into the semi-finals where we were up against familiar foes in Inter. We played at San Siro first and got off to a great start, racing into a 2-0 lead inside 13 minutes thanks to Dimba and Lever. Inter pulled one back through Italian striker Abdoulaye Seck, only for right-back Antonio Carlos to strengthen our position from the penalty spot. But the hosts made things interesting with a late goal from 16-year-old midfielder Umberto Della Croce, who looks a real talent.
We sealed the deal with a 2-0 home win thanks to an early Dongmo brace, which sent us through to our fourth Champions Cup final in six years.
And our opponents in the final were the competition’s run-away all-time most successful team, Real Madrid. We should have gone into the game fearful, but I don’t think this team understands the notion of fear and they put in probably one of the best Football Manager performances I’ve ever seen.
Indeed, we were 2-0 ahead inside half an hour as Okechukwu pounced twice in 12 minutes. His opposite winger Collazos then added a third just after the break, before Madrid dragged themselves back into the game through wonderkid striker Walid Sakkat. But there was no doubting the victors as Collazos also bagged himself a brace, having also setup one of Okechukwu’s goals, to seal a 4-1 thumping.
That saw us wrap up a treble of Italian Super Cup, Serie A and Champions Cup in 2029. In the latter, our players won every best player category bar the striker, with Moreno Cermesoni the top goalkeeper, dominating the defender category with Antonio Carlos, Alberto Pfandler and Dondon, and Dongmo winning the midfielder category.
While our team awards saw Uldbjerg dominate the player of the season award with 41% of the vote. His ridiculous form saw him attract interest from all the European big boys, which caused a little unhappiness that, when it disappeared, prompted me to hand a bumper £375,000 a week contract until 2034. He was joined in big new deals by his midfield partner Giacalone, renewing the deal of all-time record scorer Da Graca – who nearly exited the club on a free – Dongmo, Cermesoni and Okechukwu.
These successes saw me top the Hall of Fame for English managers, which is surely the perfect way to end any Football Manager blog. I’m now also 6th in the Worldwide category, 10th in Continental (which doesn’t make much sense) and 4th in the Italy nation rankings.