The Atalanta boys went into 2034 still unbeaten in Serie A as they went in chase of a tenth straight Scudetto.
More outgoings came in January, with left-back Oscar moving to Tottenham Hotspur for £35.5 million as was not only performing poorly but wasn’t too much better than exciting young full-back Sascha Bienhold. We also sold defensive midfielder Alcir and midfielder Lasha Macharishvili both to Southampton for £13.75 million and £24.5 million respectively.
One player came into the club, and a very exciting one at that, with Juan Luis Moyano joining for just £1.7 million from Real Betis.
We began the new year by exiting the Italian Cup, then went in search of more silverware as we took on Inter Milan in the Italian Super Cup Final. It was surprisingly one-sided, as first-half goals from wingers Edward Mensah and Godwin Okechukwu were added to late on by our all-time record appearance maker and goalscorer Cosimo Marco Da Graca.
We then extended our run of consecutive league wins to five with defeats of Empoli and Salernitana. Then the biggest test of our unbeaten run came as we made the journey to the San Siro to face Inter, and we kept our hopes going with a 0-0 draw, in what was a seriously drab match.
Two more wins over Cagliari and Genoa – in which Bjorn Amler and Okechukwu both scored in injury-time – followed, then an odd run of four straight league draws – 0-0 away to Lazio, 1-1 at Cremonese, then two 0-0 draws at home to Torino and away to Verona. That, surprising as it may seem given we were still unbeaten at the start of March, gave Inter a glimpse of pipping us to the title.
But we soon got back to winning ways as first-half goals from Matteo Giacalone and Okechukwu eased us past local rivals Brescia, we won 2-1 at Napoli, sealed a 2-0 win over Palermo thanks to a last minute goal from Mensah, then a more convincing 3-0 victory at SPAL, thanks to a Mensah double.
A big task followed with games against AS Roma, AC Milan and Juventus within a fortnight of each other. We started well, defeating Roma 2-0 at home thanks to Giacalone and George Aliyu, then went to the San Siro and beat Milan 3-1.
That meant if we beat Juventus at home then we would be Champions. And we duly delivered, with Okechukwu’s first-half strike seeing us past Juve and sealing a tenth straight Serie A title for Atalanta!
The next task was to try and go the entire season unbeaten, which would be a tough ask as our final three games of the league campaign taking place over five days and all away from home – who knows how that managed to happen.
First up was a trip to Sampdoria, who we saw off with three goals in eight second-half minutes from Okechukwu, Giacalone and Mensah. Next, a visit to Chievo saw us come out on top as Mensah and young centre-back Gabriele D’Alessandro’s first-half goals led us to a 2-1 win.
That meant the undefeated league campaign was on the line with a final day trip to Empoli. A really poor match, in which we fielded a mostly second-string side, was decided by young striker Kai Nennhuber’s goal on the hour mark.
We completed our first-ever unbeaten season, winning 31 of our 38 matches, amassing 100 points and conceding a record low 15 goals.
There wasn’t a huge amount to shout about individually, as it was more of a team effort this season. However, Okechukwu did rack up the most shots in Serie A and won the joint most Player of the Match awards.
Having been knocked out of the group stages of the Champions Cup, we went into the knockout stages of the Euro Cup.
We went up against Inter in the first knockout round, and gave ourselves a chance with a 2-0 win away then smashed them 5-0 at home thanks to a brace from young forward Arnaud Liebart, defender Kaddour Gourari and wingers Aliyu and Alexander Zeller, who’d really progressed well over the last couple of months.
Next up was Bayer Leverkusen, which saw me pass 800 games as Atalanta manager. We celebrated that milestone with a 3-0 win at home, then just about sealed progression with a 4-2 defeat in Germany.
The quarter-finals saw us take on Benfica and once again put in a strong home performance as we won 4-0, with an Amler hat-trick then a late fourth from substitute Liebart and Zeller getting all four assists. But we nearly threw it away in Portugal as we were 3-0 down inside 25 minutes, but somehow held on for 65 minutes to seal our place in the semi-finals.
There we faced Manchester United, who had a whole host of our former players. Things weren’t looking good in the away leg as we were 3-0 down at half-time but a second-half brace from substitute Amler gave us a bit of hope for the return leg.
We got off to a great start with Mensah scoring inside three minutes, only for our former midfielder Jose Paulo to equalise then they added a second to take a 5-3 lead into half-time – leaving us needing to score three. And, in typical fashion, we did! Mensah added a second just after half-time, Timmi Uldbjerg curled in a trademark free-kick then Amler continued his golden run of form with the winner that sent us through to the Final.
We faced a tough task in the final as we took on Spanish giants Barcelona. But we put in a dominant performance and another goal from Amler and a second-half strike from Mensah saw us add yet another trophy to the cabinet.
This latest competition win – my 26th domestic trophy in addition to the European Championships success with Italy – saw me become the Greatest Manager of all-time, surpassing Sir Alex Ferguson at the top of the Hall of Fame.