Lookman: Europa League final heroics ‘just the beginning’ for Atalanta’s hat-trick hero

Nigeria and Atalanta star Ademola Lookman has said he is looking forward to “more nights like this” after firing his club to the Europa League trophy. Lookman was the star of the show during Wednesday’s Europa League final at the Aviva Stadium, with his sensational hat-trick ensuring Atalanta had the better of Bayer Leverkusen via a comfortable 3-0 victory.

The 26-year-old was deservedly awarded the Man of the Match after being the most decisive player on the pitch and described the moment as “one of the best nights of my life.” Lookman has had a very productive 2024 and has been a key player in Atalanta’s impressive domestic and European campaigns.

Having reached two cup finals under Gian Piero Gasperini this season, Lookman and Atalanta suffered heartbreak when they were beaten by Juventus in the Coppa Italia final last week. For the Nigerian, it was also his second defeat in a major final this year after the Super Eagles also lost to Ivory Coast in the final of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON 2024) three months ago.

Lookman: Europa League final heroics ‘just the beginning’ for Atalanta’s hat-trick hero
Photo by Icon Sport

However, Lookman was third-time lucky as he helped Atalanta to lift their first European trophy as well as become the first Italian club to win the Europa League since 1999 when Parma won the competition.

Ademola Lookman says more to come after Europa League final heroics 

While the night belonged to Lookman, he believes there is more to come from him after starring on the big stage. The winger arrived in Italy two years ago after successive loan stints with Fulham and Leicester City in the Premier League.

Joining Atalanta, though, gave him the platform to finally show his true potential. In the last 20 months, he has developed into one of the finest forwards in Europe, with his prolificacy in front of goal also vastly improving. 

Lookman’s hat-trick in the Europa League final not only ended Leverkusen’s 51-game unbeaten run but also saw the former RB Leipzig star etch his name into European football folklore by becoming the first player to score three times in a single-leg Europa League final. 

Asked if he foresaw himself making such giant strides while coming up in Charlton Athletic’s academy, a confident Lookman answered in the affirmative and said his Europa League heroics were just the beginning.

“Probably, yeah. I've always had the confidence in my ability. In the past two years, I've been able to take my game to a new level and show it on a more consistent basis. Maybe it could have come earlier but it's come now. I'm pleased with the progress I've made but this is just the beginning. I hope for more nights like this,” Lookman told BBC Sport.

Ademola Lookman credits Gasperini and Atalanta fans for his form 

Meanwhile, Lookman had never managed double figures for goals before joining Atalanta. The Nigerian was highly rated in the Charlton Athletic academy but struggled after joining Premier League side Everton in 2017.

He also failed to make an impact during the three years he was on the books of Bundesliga outfit RB Leipzig, leading to loan spells at Leicester City and Fulham. However, Lookman has now reached double figures for goals in back-to-back seasons at Atalanta.

The winger scored 15 goals and provided eight assists in all competitions last season. After his hat-trick in the Europa League final, Lookman has already matched that tally with two matches left in the Serie A. The Nigeria international was, however, quick to acknowledge the contributions of his manager, teammates and the club’s fans and credited his support system for helping him to hit the ground running in Italy.

“The past few years, the club and coach have supported me in terms of giving me minutes… it's helped me elevate my game to a new level. The first few conversations we had, made me look at football a bit differently. It made it simpler in my mind in terms of what he expected from me. It made me look at, and play, my game in a different light. I'm very grateful to him,” Lookman said.

“I feel the support from the fans from the first minute I was in Bergamo. The city of Bergamo gives me a sense of calmness. It's a very calm, relaxed city and that has helped me a lot with my living style. I'm focused on the important things.”

By winning the Europa League, Lookman and Atalanta have qualified for next season’s UEFA Champions League even if they are unable to finish in the top four of the Serie A. 

Lookman: Europa League final heroics ‘just the beginning’ for Atalanta’s hat-trick hero
Emmanuel Ayamga

Emmanuel Ayamga is an Asante Kotoko fan and a passionate sports journalist with a little over five years of experience writing about African football.

His articles and features have been published in renowned news media like The Guardian, DW, Al Jazeera and Sportskeeda. His bylines can also be found in the UK journals World Soccer Magazine and These Football Times.