Atalanta coach credits ‘artisan patience’ and Lookman’s maturity for recent success

Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini has shed light on the transformation of Nigerian forward Ademola Lookman, attributing his recent success to a combination of the coach's patient guidance and a shift in Lookman's mentality.

Lookman has become a vital cog in the Atalanta machine since arriving two years ago. While his Leicester City stint yielded a respectable eight goals and five assists across 51 appearances, his move to Bergamo has unlocked a new level of performance.

Last season, the 26-year-old solidified his place with an impressive tally of 15 goals and eight assists in 33 matches. This season, he has reached even greater heights, contributing 16 goals and nine assists in 44 appearances. His crowning moment came in the Europa League final, where his dazzling hat-trick spearheaded Atalanta's 3-0 demolition of Bayer Leverkusen.

Lookman's on-field improvement is undeniable, evident not just in his goal tally but also in the overall quality of his play. Naturally, credit has fallen on Gasperini's shoulders. However, the Italian manager offers a different perspective.

According to Gasperini, Lookman's talent has always been there. The key, he suggests, lay in refining the player's mindset. 

“Lookman is a top player today, but he wasn’t before,” Gasperini told La Gazzetta dello Sport, per Football Italia.

“He was strong, but tended to light up in flashes and at other times would disappear from the game. He was the same in training sessions.”

Gasperini describes his approach with Lookman as akin to the meticulous work of an “artisan craftsman.

“I worked with him using the patience of an artisan craftsman. What he did in the last few weeks feels like his maturity. He wants the ball, participates in the game, works with his teammates.”

The Super Eagles player's continued brilliance could see him attract interest from top European clubs come next summer's transfer window. Reports have already linked him with a return to the Premier League, with West Ham named as a potential suitor.

Ademola Lookman’s career so far

Ademola Lookman's journey to becoming a European champion began at Charlton Athletic's academy, where he displayed early signs of exceptional talent. However, a high-profile move to Everton in 2017 proved challenging. Struggles for consistent playing time led him on a loan spell to RB Leipzig, where he eventually got signed permanently.

He’d go on to embark on a series of loan spells across the United Kingdom – Fulham, and Leicester City. Despite flashes of brilliance, Lookman couldn't find a permanent home in the UK or Germany to unlock his full potential.

2022 marked a turning point for Lookman's career. He declared his international allegiance to Nigeria and thrived with the Super Eagles, contributing a total of six goals. But the most significant change came with his move to Atalanta. Finally finding the stability he craved, Lookman blossomed under coach Gian Piero Gasperini. His debut season at Atalanta was a revelation – scoring on his first appearance and continuing his hot streak throughout the year. 

An impressive 15 goals and 8 assists secured him the Player of the Season award for the 2022/2023 campaign.

This season has seen the Nigerian continue his ascent. He has already notched 16 goals and 9 assists, adding a Europa League winner's medal to his growing list of achievements. Across his club career, Lookman has amassed a respectable tally of 66 goals and 35 assists in 277 appearances. His consistent performances at Atalanta have not only solidified his position as a key player but also attracted the attention of top European clubs.

Is Lookman heading for the Atalanta exit door?

The 26-year-old Nigerian forward has become a revelation in the Serie A since joining Atalanta in 2022 from RB Leipzig. Acquired for a modest €10 million, his value has skyrocketed to €30 million thanks to his consistent brilliance and clutch goals.

Under contract until 2026, the question remains: will Lookman remain in Bergamo or seek pastures new?

Lookman's success hinges on his seamless adaptation to Gian Piero Gasperini's demanding system. His blistering pace, technical mastery, and nose for goal have made him a vital cog in the Atalanta machine. However, the siren song of top European clubs, combined with Atalanta's reputation for selling star players for hefty profits, has fueled speculation of a potential departure.

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For Atalanta, the decision to retain or sell Lookman boils down to a delicate balancing act between financial goals and sporting ambitions. The club has a proven track record of developing talent and reaping significant rewards through transfers, a strategy that has fueled their consistent success in Serie A and European competitions.

As the summer transfer window looms, the world watches with bated breath. Will Atalanta resist the temptation to cash in on their prized asset, or will Lookman's stellar performances lead to a lucrative transfer away from Bergamo? Only time will tell if Lookman truly bids farewell to Atalanta, leaving behind a legacy of brilliance and a void difficult to fill.

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Toyosi Afolayan

Toyosi Afolayan is a sports journalist who breathes life into the games we love. He loves to combine insightful analysis with historical background, creating a richer understanding of sports. Afolayan's expertise ranges from captivating narratives to live broadcasts, captivating audiences across platforms like Ojbsport, AllNigeriaSoccer, TVC Entertainment, Bounce Networks, Kwara TV, ICIR, EaglesTracker, and NFF TV. His background in History and International Studies adds depth, revealing the connections between sports, politics, and national identity.