Atalanta Avventura: Part 20 – International Adventures

Fresh from wrapping up a famous sextuplet in 2025/26, the following season was always going to be one of a step backwards – given we’d won everything possible in the previous season. However, there was an exciting new beginning for the club as we moved into the brand new Ivan Ruggeri Stadium, named after Atalanta’s longest-serving Chairman from 1994 to 2008, to kick off the 2026/27 campaign.

New stadium!

I took it as an opportunity to rebuild, make some money out of some of our players, and give some of the emerging young talents a chance in the first-team in their place.

We sold backup central defender / holding midfielder Emerson to FC Bayern for £29.5 million, before two club record sales followed. Box-to-box midfielder Denis Roncaglio moved to Barcelona for £72 million then young holding midfielder Adelton Tres was also sold to Bayern for £80 million.

The sales didn’t affect us too badly as we had the central midfield pairing of Timmi Uldbjerg and Matteo Giacalone, as well as holding midfielder Filippo Melegoni, with support from Alessandro Cortinovis and young midfielders Ibrahima Ly, Luigi Minelli and Welsh attacking midfielder Rob Lever.

We brought in several more exciting new young talents, including another Brazilian centre-back Amoroso and Dutch centre-back Jeroen Velder, attacking midfielder Ramiro Rolon Martinez, and exciting Spanish left-back Oscar. They all went straight out on loan, but I expect them to be challenging for the first-team within a couple of seasons.

The season began with the Euro Super Cup, which we were nowhere near match fitness for and subsquently lost 1-0 to Chelsea in a pretty drab match.

International adventures

Away from the club scene, I was offered the Italy job for the second time after they had flopped in the 2026 World Cup. This time I accepted, and we had a Nations League qualifying series against Scotland and Portugal up first.

Italy manager

I obviously added a few of the Atalanta boys to the squad, with Cosimo Marco Da Graca, Melegoni and young goalkeeper Moreno Cermesoni joining Giacalone in the national mix. They joined a host of great talent, including Monaco striker Pietro Pellegri – who has already broken the country’s national goalscoring record with 52 goals – wingers Federico Chiesa and Inter regen Salvatore Tozzi, and a world-class midfield of former Cagliari man Nicolo Barella, now at Arsenal, and Real Madrid regen Diego Cicconi.

We got off to a great start with a 3-0 win over Scotland, thanks to a Pellegri brace and last minute goal from Giacalone then a superb 1-0 win at Portugal, sealed by Tozzi. A 2-0 win in Scotland, through goals from Barcelona midfielder Francesco Casadio and my former Atalanta winger Alessandro Zanelli, meant we went into the final day clash at home to Portugal needing a point to make the finals in the summer. We managed that with another 1-0 win, thanks again to a goal by Tozzi that would take us to England in the summer.

In my first six matches as Italy boss, including friendlies, we didn’t concede a goal and booked ourselves a finals appearance.

Italy squad 2026

A strong season start

We got off to a flyer in Serie A, with a thumping 5-1 home victory over Genoa thanks to a hat-trick from exciting right winger Luis Collazos followed by a 3-0 win at Torino.

A 1-1 draw at Pescara was followed by two big home wins – 3-0 against Salernitana, then a 5-0 spanking of Napoli, inspired by two goals from Giacalone. Then our unbeaten run came to an end with a 2-1 loss at AC Milan.

That loss sparked a streak of 13 consecutive league games without defeat through to the end of 2026 – which included a 5-3 win at Reggina in which Collazos bagged four goals, and a vital 3-1 home win over nearest challengers Inter Milan thanks to an Antonio Marin brace.

European battle

Our second defence of the Champions Cup handed us a tough looking draw, yet again alongside Arsenal, as well as Marseille and Celtic. It started well with a 3-1 win at home to Marseille then a 1-1 draw at Arsenal, but we slipped up with a 2-0 defeat at Celtic – despite dominating them with 20 shots to 11.

We got our own back on Celtic with a 4-0 home win, thanks to a brace from Collazos and goals from Da Graca and Lever, then went to Marseille and won 2-1. That meant we needed a point at home to Arsenal to guarantee qualification, which we were on track to pick up until Cengiz Under popped up with a 93rd-minute winner for The Gunners. That meant the double defending champions were out of the Champions Cup and into the Euro Cup.

World Champions defence

One week later we had to forget that disappointment as we began our defence of the Club World Championship in Melbourne, Australia. First up was Chinese side Guangzhou, who we defeated 2-0 thanks to Jakub Maruszewski and a second-half penalty by Da Graca.

That took us into the final where we took on Tunisian side Club Africain. We got off to a good start through a Collazos goal on 20 minutes then Cortinovis doubled the lead on half-time. That set us up nicely and we kicked on in style in the second half,  with Cortinovis doubling his tally five minutes after the break, then additional goals from young centre-back Wesley Dondon, Da Graca and Lever.

Atalanta were double World Champions!

World Champs x2

Next time, we’ll continue our defence of Serie A and resume our European adventures in the Euro Cup, as well as a Nations League finals to conclude the season. There will also be plenty more rebuilding imminent, given the fact that long-serving winger Marin and goalkeeper Sem Mijnheer are refusing to sign new contracts and their deals are up in the Summer.

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