Football Features

Forgotten Atalanta players, from Mourinho’s Old Trafford hero to a Liverpool nemesis

By Ben Green

Atalanta: Forgotten players who turned out for the Serie A side

Published: 18:00, 21 May 2021

When we think of Atalanta, three things come to mind: Goals, Gasperini and Gomez!

Under Gian Piero, ‘the Goddess’ have swept all before them, scoring goals like clockwork and devastating defences with cyclical waves of attacking brilliance.

They are Serie A’s great crowd-pullers, scoring more goals than any other side this season, a whopping 90! And their reward is potentially finishing runners-up to champions Inter Milan.

It will be the club’s highest ever top-flight placement and more so further cement them as one of Italian football’s premier teams. They are a magnet for entertainment, filtering through hapless defences with liquid ease and overwhelming midfields with untiring industry.

However, it has not always been alluring Champions League nights and goals galore in Bergamo, but ‘the Goddess’ have always had a clutch of iconic faces on the books, some more memorable than others.

See if you can remember these names when they were turning out for the Black and Blues….

Martin Skrtel

Time at Atalanta: 2019

Atalanta senior appearances: 0

Current club: Unattached

If you don’t remember the Liverpool icon turning out for Atalanta then you’re not alone, because the Slovakian legend made a grand total of zero appearances for the club. In fact, he lasted just three weeks. After signing last summer the 36-year-old jumped ship when he got a taste of Gasperini’s relentless tactics. Thought Antonio Conte was industrious? Step up Gian Piero. Must be an Italian thing.

Filippo Inzaghi

Time at Atalanta: 1996-1997

Atalanta senior appearances: 34

Current club: Benevento (manager)

From a Liverpool cult hero to a Liverpool nemesis, the man “born offside” was scoring for fun long before donning the strips of Juventus and AC Milan. In 1996/97 this Italian goal fiend walloped in 24 Serie A goals during his only season for Atalanta, scooping a Capocannoniere in the process. This prompted the great Marcello Lippi to secure his services, but he never quite replicated that sensational goal haul for the Goddess, though he did bag a couple of Champions Leagues and a World Cup along the way so, not a bad career.

Simone Inzaghi

Time at Atalanta: 2007-2008

Atalanta senior appearances: 19

Current club: Lazio (manager)

The less successful Inzaghi also enjoyed a brief sojourn in the black and blue strip of Atalanta. Where his brother tucked home at an alarming rate during his spell in the mid-90s, Simone couldn’t buy a goal. In fairness the Lazio boss was winding down his career by the time he pitched up in 2007/08, but zero goals in 19 appearances doesn’t look great which ever way you try to sugarcoat it.

Franck Kessie

Time at Atalanta: 2015-2019

Atalanta senior appearances: 31

Current club: AC Milan

Lets throw a modern star into the mix. Kessie rose to meteoric prominence during the 2016/17 season for Atalanta, which was Gasperini’s first in charge, add that to the Italian’s growing repertoire: an eye for talent. The Goddess finished fourth that season, their first placement in the Serie A top 10 since 2008, and of course, the vultures came swooping in. Milan plundered their Lombardy neighbour’s ranks and Kessie has been a mainstay in the Rossoneri XI ever since.

Christian Vieri

Time at Atalanta: 1995-1996, 2006-2007, 2008-2009

Atalanta senior appearances: 37

Current club: Retired

He was once the world’s most expensive player after moving from Lazio to Inter in 1999, while his mantlepiece exhibits a Pichichi Trophy, a Capocannoniere, a Serie A title and multiple Coppa Italias. In other words, he was a goalscoring machine. Vieri actually had three separate spells with La Dea – all lasting one season.

His first came in the 1995/96 season, where he scored nine goals in 21 games, enough to earn a move to Juventus. Just over a decade later, with his career winding down, Vieri returned to Atalanta but games and goals were hard to come by in 2006/07 with the Italian managing two in seven.

A year in Fiorentina followed before one final hurrah with Atalanta, but another sporadic season came and Vieri eventually retired after his contract in Bergamo was terminated early.

Alessandro Bastoni 

Time at Atalanta: 2016-2018

Atalanta senior appearances: 9

Current club: Inter Milan

In recent years Atalanta have drawn covetous eyes from across Europe, as their academy has been a hotbed for emerging talent. When Gasperini joined in 2016, it wasn’t just Kessie given a chance to hone his craft and showcase his talents. Inter Milan’s latest headline act, Bastoni, was also provided a platform in which to develop. Well, he was only afforded four chances before the Nerazzurri offered €31m for is services.

Dejan Kulusevski 

Time at Atalanta: 2018-2020

Atalanta senior appearances: 3

Current club: Juventus

And it doesn’t stop there. Add another €35m, potentially €44m to Gasperini’s budget as this Swedish phenom completed an eye-watering move to Juventus last season, before retuning on loan to Parma. The 20-year-old has drawn comparisons to a certain Mohamed Salah and is another to make just a handful of appearances for Atalanta before the big boys came knocking. In truth, who could blame the Old Lady? Kulusevski was on fire during is initial loan spell at Parma from Atalanta.


Time at Atalanta: 2007-10

Atalanta senior appearances: 1

Current club: Retired

Yes sorry Man Utd fans that Costinha. You know, the one who scored that 90th minute equaliser at Old Trafford to send Porto on course for a Champions League win and Jose Mourinho galavanting down the touchline like a Golden Ticket-winner. Well, after lifting ol’ ‘Big Ears’ above his head, the Alfacinha gave Dynamo Moscow and Atletico Madrid a go before finishing his career with Atalanta, where he made just one appearance in three years.

Trevor Francis

Time at Atalanta: 1986-1987

Atalanta senior appearances: 30

Current club: Retired

A throwback now for all you retro enthusiasts. During the 80s Serie A was the epicentre of world class football. Calcio was en vogue and awash with talent, ranging from Diego Maradona to Roberto Baggio. It was also a time when British players ventured out of their bubble and tried their luck on foreign soil. Accompanying Francis in Italy were the likes of Ian Rush, Luther Blissett, Ray Wilkins and Liam Brady.

Lionel Scaloni

Time at Atalanta: 2013-2015

Atalanta senior appearances: 17

Current club: Argentina (manager)

‘Just hoof it down the line!’ The cries of every West Ham fan when they rewatch (those who have been brave enough to do so) Scaloni’s half-hearted clearance in the dying embers of the FA Cup final in 2006. His tame kick barely reached the halfway line where, a certain Steven Gerrard happened to be lurking. He would change the game seconds later with that corker.

West Ham woes aside, the current Argentina boss is another who finished his career at Atalanta, turning out for the Goddess between 2013 and 2015.

Giacomo Bonaventura

Time at Atalanta: 2006-2014

Atalanta senior appearances: 135

Current club: Fiorentina

The name Giacomo Bonaventura may have become synonymous with AC Milan in recent years, but the midfielder actually started his career with Atalanta. Coming through the academy, Bonaventura made his first-team debut in May 2008 and, after loan spells with Pergocrema and Padova, became a regular in 2010.

In the four years following, Bonaventura helped Atalanta gain promotion to Serie A and become a stable club in Italy’s top flight. For his efforts, Bonaventura earned a move to AC Milan in 2014, but he has since joined Fiorentina.

Simone Zaza

Time at Atalanta: 2006-2010

Atalanta senior appearances: 3

Current club: Torino

Sorry against West Ham fans. Before making himself known to the wider public for his horrific penalty against Germany at Euro 2016, Simone Zaza was a young Italian in the Atalanta academy. Joining from Valdera as a 15-year-old, Zaza would go on to make just three first-team appearances for Atalanta in the second half of the 2008/09 season, amassing 64 minutes on the pitch.

Davide Zappacosta

Time at Atalanta: 2011-2012, 2014-15

Atalanta senior appearances: 30

Current club: Genoa (on loan from Chelsea)

Before signing for Chelsea in 2017, Davide Zappacosta was relatively unknown outside of Italy, so it would be understandable for many to not know about his Atalanta past. First joining La Dea in January 2011, Zappacosta, then 18, failed to make a single first-team appearance before being loaned out to Avellini in the summer. His move was eventually made permanent, but he returned to Atalanta in 2014, signing a four-year deal.

But he would stay only in Bergamo for a year, with his performances for Atalanta good enough to earn a move to Torino in 2015 – from whom Chelsea signed Zappacosta two years later.

Dani Osvaldo

Time at Atalanta: 2006-2007

Atalanta senior appearances: 3

Current club: Banfield

Former Southampton forward Dani Osvaldo was a controversial figure in football who retired at 30 (before returning to the pitch earlier this year) to pursue his career in music – and apparently have more time for Italy’s ‘Dancing with the Stars’.

But before all of that, a 20-year-old Osvaldo spent a half a season with Atalanta in Serie B. The forward only made three appearances in Italy’s second division, as Atalanta were promoted, eventually being loaned to Lecce and finally sold to Fiorentina.

He came out of retirement to sign for Banfield — whom he represented during his youth career — in January 2020.

Manolo Gabbiadini

Time at Atalanta: 2003-2012

Atalanta senior appearances: 26

Current club: Sampdoria

Another ex-Southampton man to have spent some time with Atalanta, Manolo Gabbiadini actually started his career in Bergamo – the province of his birth – joining La Dea’s academy as a 12-year-old.

Coming through the ranks, Gabbiadini made his Atalanta league debut in March 2010 aged 18, but was sent on loan to Cittadella the following season.

Gabbiadini then returned to Atalanta in 2011, becoming a part of the first team, playing 25 times but returning just one goal before being sold to Juventus in 2012.

Marten de Roon

Time at Atalanta: 2015-2016, 2017-present

Atalanta senior appearances: 217

Current club: Atalanta

Fans of the Premier League will remember midfielder Marten de Roon for his year with Middlesbrough in 2016/17. But some may have lost track of the Dutchman post-relegation.

After Middlesbrough went down to the Championship in 2017, De Roon returned to Serie A with Atalanta – the club Boro had initially bought him from. Since then, De Roon has been a regular with La Dea, becoming an integral part of Gasperini’s Champions League team.

How times have changed for the 30-year-old.

Vito Mannone

Time at Atalanta: 2003-2005

Atalanta senior appearances: 0

Current club: Monaco

Before catching the eye of Arsene Wenger, Vito Mannone spent two seasons with Atalanta’s academy, whom he signed for as a 15-year-old.

Given his young age, there was no first-team appearance for Mannone at Atalanta before Arsenal came knocking. And after his seven-year spell at the Gunners was largely spent as third-choice goalkeeper, Mannone has been enjoying the nomadic life, recently turning out for Minnesota United in the MLS and Esbjerg fB in Denmark, both on loan from Reading, while he is now the first-team ‘keeper at Monaco.

Riccardo Montolivo

Time at Atalanta: 1992-2003 (youth), 2003-2005

Atalanta senior appearances: 82

Current club: Retired

A 66-time Italy international and AC Milan stalwart of 158 appearances, Riccardo Montolivo has been around the block.

But before all of that, as well as his seven-season stay with Fiorentina, the midfielder came through the youth ranks at Atalanta, joining the club in 1992 and patiently waiting until 2003 to make his debut in Serie B. Montolivo would take his tally to 82 Atalanta appearances before joining Fiorentina in 2005.

Given his pedigree, the fact that Montolivo’s only trophy was a 2016 Supercoppa Italiana may come as a real shock to most. He officially announced his retirement from football in November last year.

Simon Kjaer

Time at Atalanta: 2019-2020

Atalanta senior appearances: 6

Current club: AC Milan

Out went Skrtel in came Kjaer. Unfortunately the Dane became the latest victim unable to acclimatise to the high demands of Gasperini-ball. He spent the first half of this season on loan at Atalanta, but saw his loan deal from Sevilla terminated early. He has since returned to Serie A, this time with Milan, where he has been a keystone of Stefano Pioli’s defence.

Urby Emanuelson

Time at Atalanta: 2015

Atalanta senior appearances: 9

Current club: FC Utrecht

Having hailed from Ajax’s illustrious academy, Emanuelson followed in the footsteps of many great Dutchman before him and moved to AC Milan in 2010. Unfortunately his impact was not quite Marco van Basten or Clarence Seedorf-esque and he eventually left for Roma (after a brief stint on loan at Fulham). The versatile left-back couldn’t force his way into the first team at Roma and was subsequently sent out on loan to Atalanta, where he featured nine times.