Gasperini reveals U-turn on Atalanta departure

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Gian Piero Gasperini has revealed he was ready to leave Atalanta at the end of last season, but decided to remain in Bergamo due to his respect for the club's owners and love for the fans.

Gasperini took charge of Atalanta in 2016, with the club having posted five consecutive bottom-half Serie A finishes.

The former Inter boss immediately oversaw a dramatic transformation in the club's fortunes, implementing a relentless attacking style while securing fourth place in his first season at the helm, before leading them to three consecutive third-place finishes between 2018-19 and 2020-21.

Atalanta scored a staggering 188 league goals across the latter two of those campaigns, also reaching the Champions League knockout stages in both seasons.

But their momentum stalled last season as they finished eighth in Serie A, leading to speculation 64-year-old Gasperini could depart.

Gasperini said he was unsure of his future in May, but has now confirmed his desire to remain in Bergamo and build a new "young and strong" team.

"With [Atalanta president Antonio] Percassi there is a relationship of esteem and gratitude. I told him, 'maybe I'm the one who has to go away', but he absolutely didn't want it," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"Now the momentum to start again is with us. If I am still here, it is because of the strong bond with the city.

"I perceived the demand of the people strongly and this conditioned me, because I was really ready to leave, if the club had wanted me to.

"Atalanta will be young and strong. I stayed for the people. There is a desire for revenge.

"We are not big, we are working to become big. In the meantime, we will fight, we will have fun."

Gasperini's men were hampered by the unavailability of strike duo Duvan Zapata and Josip Ilicic for long periods last season, as the two forwards hit just 13 league goals between them and managed only 1,732 and 836 minutes of Serie A football respectively.

And he believes the club's failure to invest heavily in the transfer market after benefiting from Champions League revenue exacerbated their issues.

"New energies would have helped us," he added. "We have had some important sales, substantial revenues from the Champions League, but we have remained very static, especially up front.

"In the last two years, with the resources available, it was the right time to introduce a new champion like [now-Sevilla attacker Alejandro] Gomez and Ilicic. Other profiles have arrived.

"What I asked for was not done and we found ourselves on the edge."

Gasperini's seventh Serie A season with Atalanta will begin with a trip to Sampdoria on August 13, before they host champions Milan eight days later.

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