We kicked off the 2031/32 campaign on the back of another Serie A and Champions Cup double, hunting a ninth consecutive league title.
The new season began with a quieter than usual transfer window, bringing in just £66 million in fees as we offloaded a few players that clearly weren’t going to make it. But the biggest outgoing saw centre-back Danilo Bosoni move to Arsenal for £49.5 million, and I let him go because I knew we had 19-year-old Gabriele D’Ambrosio waiting in the wings to replace him.
I brought in another raft of exciting youngsters to bolster our youth teams, including a potential long-term replacement for Bosoni in Kaddour Goorari – who arrived from AS Monaco for just £6 million. While I’m also excited about the prospect of attacking midfielder Boubacar Bakayoko, who we signed for just £1 million from Valenciennes.
The season began in ridiculous fashion as we took on Real Madrid in the European Super Cup and duly recorded the club’s record victory. We got off to an absolute flyer as Hallvard Steinkjer scored inside 20 seconds, then left-winger Godwin Okechukwu popped his shooting boots on to bang a hat-trick before half-time. There was no let up after the break as Cosimo Marco Da Graca added a fifth, Bjorn Amler replaced him and grabbed a brace then a late own goal saw us romp to an 8-1 win against a full strength Madrid side.
And that win set us up nicely for the new league campaign, kicking off Serie A with a run of four straight wins, before being brought back to earth with a 4-3 defeat at Pescara. We were absolutely awful in this game, going 3-0 down before half-time, fighting back to 3-3 with a last minute equaliser, only for them to go down the other end and win it – despite us having 33 shots to their 11. Ridiculous.
We responded by spanking AS Roma 4-0 at home thanks to a hat-trick from Matteo Giacalone, who had started the season in scintillating form, then tow big away wins of 4-1 over Cagliari and 3-0 over Verona saw Okechukwu bag braces in both.
Another 4-0 win followed, this time over Napoli, then we went and lost away from home against an unfancied side again – with a 1-0 defeat at Empoli.
We then found some extended form with two consecutive 3-0 home wins over Sampdoria and Lazio, a 2-1 win at Palermo and a 3-1 win at home to Juventus, thanks to goals from Giacalone, right-winger Edward Mensah and Da Graca, who always scores against Juve.
That set us up for the big one, Inter Milan away. Inter had won every match bar one draw and looked in danger of running away with the title, but we managed to hold them to a 2-2 draw that could prove crucial. Okechukwu cancelled out an early opener, then they took the lead nine minutes from time only for right-back Antonio Carlos to cooly convert an 87th-minute penalty – his first league goal in four seasons.
That sent us into 2032 in second place, a mighty ten points behind the impressive Inter. But central midfielder Giacalone was the joint top goalscorer in the league with 12.
Champions Cup defence
Our defence of our European crown began saw us handed a relatively easy looking group alongside Valencia, Olympique Marseille and Basel. And we got off to a great start as a 2-1 win in Valencia was backed up with a 6-0 thumping of Basel, in which the ever-impressive Timmi Uldbjerg scored a sublime hat-trick of free-kicks and laid on two assists.
But the things got a little trickier as we lost 2-0 in Marseille, then 1-0 at home to the French side. Somehow we were still second in the table and a 2-2 draw at home to Valencia didn’t exactly help, but any nerves were warded off with a strong 3-1 win in Basel thanks to another Okechukwu brace and a goal from Uldbjerg.
World Champions bid
2031 was rounded off with a trip to Egypt for the Club World Championship. We took on LA Galaxy in the semi-final and came out on top 3-1, but it was much closer than that sounds with the tie only decided with a 94th-minute goal by Amler.
Moving onto the final we were up against Chinese opposition and a familiar face as our former captain Filippo Melegoni led out Guangzhou. We started well and Okechukwu gave us the lead just before the half hour, but we were pathetic in front of goal as we wasted 40 shots. And the Chinese side punished us, fairly cruelly, with an injury-time equaliser.
A dull extra-time followed, which led us to a penalty shoot-out. A tense period of penalties saw both sides score their first six efforts, then Alberto Pfandler coolly converted to heap the pressure on centre-back Ye Zhongiang – who bottled it to make us World Champions for the fourth time.
As the New Year ticked over we recorded another first for Atalanta, as Giacalone was named as World Player of the Year and won the World Golden Ball – and rightly so given his 20 goals and 8 assists in 37 matches at an average rating of 7.58. However, he only came third in the World Footballer of the Year.
Join us next time as we face an unlikely bid for a ninth Serie A title and, given our European form, a less likely bid to retain our Champions Cup crown.