Loyalty increases respect for Leverkusen’s Alonso and Atalanta’s Gasperini, the managers of the Europa League final

DUBLIN: On Wednesday, two highly regarded managers who are at different stages of their careers and who have the same commitment to their overachieving small-city teams will compete in the Europa League final.

In his first complete season at the age of 42, Xabi Alonso has guided undefeated Bayer Leverkusen to an instant classic in the history of soccer.

At the age of 66, Gian Piero Gasperini is perhaps enjoying one of his best seasons as a coach in his twenty-first year, his eighth at Atalanta, a low-budget regional team in the soccer mecca of northern Italy.

Despite turning down recent offers from both Liverpool and Bayern Munich to remain with Leverkusen for the next season, Gasperini joined the chorus of admiration for Alonso on Tuesday.

In translated remarks, Gasperini said, “Xabi Alonso has done wonderful with the performances this season.” “He had the chance to visit several large clubs.”

When the Atalanta coach was signed by Inter Milan in 2011, he had the opportunity to coach a previous European champion through his own experience. He was sacked after three months and five games.

Before joining Atalanta in 2016, Gasperini had also returned for second stints at three other teams that had sacked him in the past.

He said on Tuesday, “The club believed in me when I wasn’t highly rated, and that’s a great example for soccer.”

After 25 seasons without participating in a European tournament prior to his appointment, Gasperini soon grasped what he had in Atalanta. 2017 saw him declare, “There is no point leaving a situation like that; the club and fans appreciate me as a person, and people love me in Bergamo.”

But maybe now is the right moment, as Gasperini himself fueled rumors this month that he needed a fresh challenge—possibly somewhere else.

When questioned on Tuesday about choosing an ideal time to go, Gasperini said, “We don’t have crystal balls; you can never be sure when it’s right.”

“We live more in the present than the future,” he remarked, adding, “the right time is when you win, when the performance levels never drop off and people still rate you.”

With a top-five Serie A finish certain, Atalanta has already secured a Champions League spot for the next season. Under Gasperini, it is no longer necessary to win the Europa League, the second division, in order to earn a fourth trip to the top European tournament.

Regarding the pressure being removed from his players, the Atalanta coach said, “Absolutely, it allows us to be fully focused on this cup final.” “We must be very focused and exact. Ultimately, Leverkusen is a team first and foremost.

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