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Gewiss Stadium and Zingonia, how the Atalanta miracle was born

Where Gasperini's team plays and trains

Gewiss Stadium and Zingonia, how the Atalanta miracle was born Where Gasperini's team plays and trains

"I didn‘t think this team could achieve such goals," said Gian Piero Gasperini a few weeks ago on the eve of the double final that awaited his Atalanta: the Coppa Italia final, which was lost 1-0 to Juventus (on the night that will be remembered for Allegri's "show"), and the subsequent Europa League final, which was won 3-0 against Bayer Leverkusen thanks to a historic hat-trick from Ademola Lookman. After returning from Dublin with the Bergamo club's first European title and having written a page in the history of Italian football that was unthinkable until a few years ago, the Piedmontese coach took a few stones out of his shoes ("it's nice to win without debt, unlike others") and patted himself on the back ("football is meritocracy and we have given hope to many realities"), but without abandoning the mentality and modus operandi that have brought Gasperini and Atalanta this far. “Continue to improve” and “grow”, “never be satisfied”, never be afraid to raise the bar higher and higher; but at the same time proceed with the prudence of those who do not want to and cannot force the pace.

Patience, expertise and ideas: These are the principles that epitomise the spirit of the sporting miracle that has transformed the Atalanta of yesteryear - with its catchment area and economic availability light years away from the levels of the Italian "greats" - into a club that can compete at the top. First in the league and then on the international stage. With the Europa League success, Gasperini and the Percassi family have gained the recognition of the whole of European football, a well-deserved - and not just today - bath in the crowd for the two architects of the Atalanta system. The fact that they are victorious on the pitch and virtuous and far-sighted in their budgets is demonstrated, among other things, by the most important buildings that have been realised under their aegis and which will remain as a dowry for whoever takes over the baton: their own stadium - the Gewiss Stadium, for sponsorship reasons - and the modern training centre in Zingonia.

Gewiss Stadium

The history of the Gewiss Stadium, formerly Atleti Azzurri d'Italia, began long before 2017, the year in which the club acquired it. It was built in 1928 and went through several phases of renovation and several name changes until the municipal tender was won seven years ago by Atalanta (at the expense of Albinoleffe) with a sum of around €9 million to secure ownership of the facility. And thus to launch the impressive modernisation project of the facility, which is due to be completed in the coming months with the opening of the Curva Morosini (after a series of postponements due to the pandemic and rising material costs). Several areas have been restructured and the experience of Atalanta fans has been enriched with a series of new spaces, some commercial activities and an underground car park. In short, a profound renovation that will bring the Gewiss Stadium to more than 24,000 seats and make Atalanta one of the few clubs with its own stadium on the Italian football scene, alongside Juventus, Udinese, Frosinone and Cremonese. The Dea website states: "Owning the stadium makes it the home of the team and the fans, creating an even stronger emotional bond".

But the Gewiss Stadium is not just that, it is also an asset of enormous value to the club. In parallel to the exponential growth of the club during the Gasperini era - in which revenue more than tripled thanks mainly to TV rights, UEFA revenue and player trading - the acquisition and subsequent renovation of the stadium has increased matchday revenue and taken the club's tangible assets from €20m to €50m; Growth moves and factors that have helped increase the club's value to over half a billion euros, as sanctioned two years ago by the sale of 55% of the club to the Italian-American consortium led by Stephen Pagliuca, co-owner of the Boston Celtics and co-chairman of Bain Capital. Figures that prove once and for all the extraordinary work of the Percassi family (who are still President and CEO), who bought the club for around 20 million in 2010.

The Zingonia model

As already mentioned, there is the Zingonia Sports Centre, where the youth and first teams train in a state-of-the-art facility that represents a second important structural asset. The Bortolotti Centre, just a few kilometres from Bergamo, is the heart and, in a way, the emblem of the Atalanta philosophy, a project focused on the development of young players and internal value creation. The ability to add value to the products of the youth academy (Ruggeri, Scalvini and Carnesecchi in the current squad) or players bought for small sums (especially at one time) and then sell them on for a big profit (the two richest: Rasmus Højlund and Cristian Romero), was one of the keys that allowed the club to maintain a solid financial situation and stay in the black for seven consecutive seasons; it allowed them to improve from season to season and reach the point where they could invest significant sums on the market - 30-million-plus goals no longer make headlines - and emerge among the big names in Italian football and eventually stabilise.

The Gasperini era has seen the club reach five Champions League qualifiers and six Europa League qualifiers, including one that just ended in triumph. The victory in Dublin is undoubtedly the high point in the Nerazzurri's history, but it is only the latest chapter in an ascending parable that still has much to tell. We know for sure where the next pages will be written: behind the scenes, in Zingonia and under the floodlights of the new Gewiss Stadium; and we know that Gasperini will still be at the helm for at least another season. It's not in Atalanta's DNA to be complacent, but after the historic goal achieved - while we await the equally historic European Super Cup - it's right to take a moment to reflect on the Dea's unique journey, which began in the provinces and deservedly arrived on the roof of Europe.