Former Liverpool boss praises Lookman’s journey: ‘So happy he has flourished’

Former Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has opened up on his admiration for Super Eagles forward Ademola Lookman.

Since Lookman's heroics in the UEFA Europa League finals, social media has been awash with praise from various personalities for the Nigeria international.

The story would be told someday, surely, about how Bayer Leverkusen came incredibly close to going through the entire 2023/24 season without defeat in all competitions — until, that is, they encountered a five-foot-nine Nigerian giant called Lookman.

Leverkusen had completed a flawless Bundesliga campaign as champions last weekend, finishing 17 points clear of their nearest ‘challengers’, and were two finals—one in the UEFA Europa League and another three days later in the DFB Pokal—away from sweeping it all in a manner no team in European football had ever done.

Ademola Lookman @ Icon Sport
Photo by Icon Sport

Atalanta, their opponents in the Europa League final, may have knocked out favourites Liverpool en route to the showdown in Dublin and not lost in the Serie A since early April, but they did not exactly appear mighty enough to end Leverkusen’s 51-game run of invincibility.

If any of the two contestants was expected to dominate last Wednesday's encounter, it was Xabi Alonso's freshly-minted German champions.

But Atalanta, presented with a chance to win a first major trophy in over six decades and simultaneously punch a ticket to next year's UEFA Champions League, were up to the task — and manager Gian Piero Gasperini had just the man to execute it.

Lookman scored a hat-trick on the night to help Atalanta lift their first piece of silverware in 61 years, beating Liverpool, Marseille and Sporting Clube de Portugal en route to glory.

Rodgers, who recently won a domestic double with Celtic in Scotland, revealed he was keen on keeping Lookman at the King Power Stadium, but for the club’s financial situation at the time.

From Leicester to Atalanta: Rodgers celebrates Ademola Lookman's success

Reflecting on Lookman's journey and development, Rodgers shared his thoughts on the player's career trajectory and his time under his management.

“The only sad part for us [at Leicester] was that, at the end of that season, we could have bought him for £14 million but you think back to that summer, we couldn't sign any players. One of my guys who I worked closely with at Celtic and Leicester is a guy called Lee Congerton and by then Lee was the general manager of Atalanta. When he knew that we weren't able to take him, he took him then to Atalanta and he has done absolutely brilliantly there, so I am so happy, the goals he scored! Especially the second and third ones,” Rodgers said in a recent interview with talkSPORT.

“He scored some massive goals for me at Leicester, he scored the winning goal in a game against Liverpool at home, it was a brilliant individual goal. But I am so, so pleased for him because he has travelled the world to be the best player that he can be and I am so happy he has flourished his talents on such a big occasion.

“I was so, so happy for him watching the game last night. I go back to my first night here at Celtic, I met Ade when he knew he was going to leave Charlton. We had looked to get him up here at the time but it was so early in the window that by the time the window finished, we couldn't afford him. The money was too much and he ended up going to Everton. We always kept in contact so when I was at Leicester and he was at Red Bull [Leipzig], we had the chance to take him on loan.

“So I took him in and he was absolutely brilliant. What a professional he is, the way he looks after himself, the extra work he does in training. Those goals that he scored, he practices those after training, he would always do extra training. His professionalism was unbelievable.”

Lookman played under Rodgers at Leicester City in the 2021/22 season on loan from RB Leipzig.

While at Leicester, the Nigeria international scored eight times in 42 appearances, but the failure to make his loan permanent was partly due to FFP concerns at the King Power Stadium.

Is Lookman heading for the Atalanta exit door?

The 26-year-old who joined Atalanta from RB Leipzig in 2022, has made a significant impact in the Serie A.

Valued at €30 million, Lookman’s stock has risen considerably since his €10 million transfer, thanks to his impressive performances and crucial goals.

With a contract that runs until 2026, speculation is rife about whether Lookman will remain in Bergamo or seek new challenges elsewhere.

Lookman’s journey with Atalanta has been marked by his ability to adapt and excel in Gasperini’s system.

His pace, technical skills, and goal-scoring prowess have made him a key player for the team. However, the lure of top clubs across Europe, coupled with Atalanta’s history of selling star players for substantial profits, has fuelled rumours of a potential exit.

Ademola Lookman @ Icon Sport
Photo by Icon Sport

For Atalanta, the decision to keep or sell Lookman will likely depend on their financial goals and sporting ambitions.

The club has a track record of nurturing talent and then selling at a premium, a strategy that has sustained their competitiveness in Serie A and European competitions.

As the summer transfer window approaches, all eyes will be on Lookman and Atalanta. Will the club resist the temptation to cash in on their prized asset, or will Lookman’s stellar performances lead to a big-money move?

Only time will tell if Lookman is indeed heading for the Atalanta exit door.

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Godfred Budu

Godfred Budu, a Ghanaian sports journalist, brings a dynamic perspective to the field with over a decade of experience. Having contributed to esteemed platforms such as Kickgh.com and Inkandkicks.com. Godfred is recognised for his insightful commentary and in-depth analysis of African football.
His passion for storytelling and commitment to accuracy have established him as a trusted authority in sports journalism in Ghana, captivating audiences with his engaging narratives and unparalleled expertise.
Godfred holds a degree in Integrated Development Studies (Social and Development Administration option) from the University for Development Studies, Ghana.