The rhythm of the summer transfer market beat is a familiar one. Everyone who is anyone performing well at a mid-to-lower level club is linked with a move to one of the game’s traditional giants. And in the Italian coaching world at the moment few are hotter properties than Atalanta’s Gian Piero Gasperini.
His work in Bergamo – with a Coppa Italia Final spot and a potential Champions League finish – was never going to go unnoticed. That it has come with an aggressive and entertaining style has also earned him justifiable plaudits. Inevitably, it would seem, that has seen him linked with a move to a bigger job. Milan, maybe even Roma, have been mentioned as the most likely suitors.
But, let’s hold the team bus right there. Rewind the clock to the summer of 2011 and the same man – carrying a cracking reputation from his work getting Genoa promoted and uber-competitive in Serie A – lands the Inter job. How, my friends with good memories, did that one turn out? In case you’ve forgotten, it was a case of: “Hello, I must be going.” He was installed and booted out about as quickly as many an Italian Prime Minister.
That should serve as a warning to both potential buyers and the man himself. What works in the provinces does not always translate to success at a top club. Ask the more veteran Calcio watchers about Corrado Orrico at Inter or Gigi Maifredi’s reign in Turin. Sometimes, no matter how much you breathe in or puff out your chest, a suit will just never fit.
It need not mean, of course, that Gasp could not be a success in more celebrated surroundings. We are nearly a decade down the line from his brutal experience at San Siro and there is little doubt he will have learned lessons from that time around. The big issue, however, is always likely to be the patience you are afforded to build a team when you move to a club with great expectations. What constitutes success is on a sliding scale according to your history, support and wage bill.
Moving to an Italian giant in particular has been a graveyard for many a promising Coach. He is longer in the tooth than most, but Gasp would be well advised to have a word with Vincenzo Montella or Eusebio Di Francesco before quitting his current post. And, in the end, why not carve out something really special at Atalanta that would be remembered forever?
That is the crux of the issue, for me anyway, for players and Coaches – especially those who have been around the block a few times. Maybe there comes a point in your career where you try to do something out of the ordinary at a smaller club rather than being yet another name to deliver trophies to one of the big boys. I struggle to imagine Gasperini ever being revered in, say, Milan or Rome as much as he currently is in Bergamo. To win a trophy there would be as rare as a warm welcome in the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia for Federico Chiesa.
For the winning-is-the-only-thing brigade, there can be no success to compare with the biggest clubs and the biggest trophies, but the rest of us can find much to savour elsewhere. Would it really be so bad to carve out a legacy with La Dea that would be remembered for generations to come? How impressive would it be to take this side to unprecedented heights and then help regenerate the squad after it inevitably loses some of its prized assets?
Gasperini is perfectly capable of moving on up and delivering the goods at a bigger club, without a doubt. But, alternatively, why not keep building something unique outside those traditional powerhouses? Unconventional, perhaps, but exciting too. Daring to do things a little differently is surely just as admirable as climbing a very well-worn ladder. Many a career has been killed off by trying to revive a sleeping giant – so why not just create a new one of your own?
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