Gian Piero Gasperini revels in beating Liverpool as Atalanta boss makes 'trophy' claim

Jürgen Klopp (Head Coach for Liverpool F.C.) and Gianpiero Gasperini (head coach Atalanta BC) during the Europa League football match between Atalanta and Liverpool at Gewiss Stadium on April 18, 2024 in Bergamo, Italy.
Gian Piero Gasperini got the better of Jürgen Klopp and Liverpool over two legs in the Europa League quarter-final. -Credit:Stefano Nicoli/Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Jürgen Klopp will not be signing off from Liverpool with another European trophy. Instead, Atalanta boss Gian Piero Gasperini remains in with a shot of winning a first one of his own.

Gasperini watched on a journalist's phone as Marseille and Benfica went to penalties. The French side won, and Atalanta will take it on in the semi-final, in a game that would have been frustratingly winnable for Liverpool on paper.

But on the pitch, there could be few complaints with Atalanta's progression. Liverpool did manage to win in Bergamo, but despite taking the lead early on, only vaguely threatened to overturn the three-goal deficit. The host had chances of its own, too, even if Klopp seemed upbeat about the performance.

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On the basis of its performances against Liverpool, Atalanta has a good chance of reaching the final and potentially even winning the whole thing, although a still-unbeaten Bayer Leverkusen side is looking ominous on the other side of the draw under the tutelage of Xabi Alonso. But Gasperini insists a win over Klopp and the Reds in this manner is already a trophy.

"Without doubt we care about winning something, but the trophy also is seeing the unity of these lads," said Gasperini, via Football Italia. "At half-time, I asked them if they wanted to drop back a bit and defend deeper if they were feeling the pressure, but they said absolutely not! That is a trophy for me, because they think like me, they are in positions and approaches that they enjoy."

It certainly was a brave Atalanta performance over the two legs. The man-to-man system has long been a tenet of Gasperini's approach, as has the high pressing, but it took guts to come to Anfield and do that, with the Italians reaping a handsome reward. And as the manager alluded to, it was similarly brave not to drop off when Liverpool clawed a goal back in Bergamo.

There's certainly mutual respect between the two managers. Klopp could be seen warmly congratulating Gasperini at full-time, and the latter made sure to praise the former in his press conference.

"We are very happy to have given our contribution over the years," he said. "We eliminated a great coach and a great team, we had heart and a wonderful crowd helping us tonight. When a club like ours manages to get results well beyond the history of Atalanta and Bergamo, I have to consider this exceptional for my career, for Bergamo and for everyone." says: Wildcard Klopp heir, anyone? Almost certainly not, but Gasperini has a refreshingly defined tactical idea, complete buy-in from his players and a long track record of overperforming compared to his resources.

Unfortunately, he certainly did a number on Liverpool. Gasperini's respect for Liverpool and Klopp is clear, but he did not let that cloud his tactical plan, and the Reds simply weren't good enough.