Gasperini, during Atalanta-Sampdoria.ALBERTO LINGRIA / Reuters
When Alberto Zapater arrived at Genoa at the age of 23 in 2009, in his first experience outside of Spain, he was amazed at the club's headquarters. A 16th-century mansion, decorated with Mannerist-style frescoes, which had been a vacation retreat for European royalty. There was the sports city and there he met the personality and methods of a then unique coach, Gian Piero Gasperini , who now threatens Real Madrid with Atalanta in the Champions League (21.00, Movistar Champions League, 0-1 in the first leg ) with the same offensive and revolutionary catalog that left its mark in his almost eight seasons in the grifone team .
Real Madrid, without Hazard and without escape in Champions Roberto Donadoni: “Capello wanted to sign me for Real Madrid” Atalanta, a army defending itself by attacking
“I had never played like this. You saw that he had super controlled what he wanted, how he wanted it and transferred it to the footballer. There were a series of instructions that you had to follow to the letter. If not, he's a guy who gets really pissed off. There was no room for debate, what he said was going to mass. Only his presence commanded respect ”, affirms the 35-year-old Zaragoza media, who was a regular in the Italian's plans in the course he shared with him at Luigi Ferraris. “At first I wondered why veterans didn't do certain things on the pitch, but of course, it was because of Gasperini's authority. With time you realize that I would like to have those experiences today. A kid caught me and, in addition, the players are selfish who are always with our day to day. Now you start to see everything more transparent ”, the pivot is sincere, who left La Romareda for Italy for 4.5 million
To that Genoa, the 63-year-old Piedmontese took it in Serie B, he raised it the first year to the highest category and qualified for the Europa League. Before that, he had left the Juventus nest, where he trained as a player (he retired in 1993 without a great career in the elite) and had trained the lower categories, to go to the other end of the country, to direct 1,200 kilometers in the third division to Crotone. "It was the most difficult moment," his wife Cristina later acknowledged from a more familiar point of view, confirming the "explosive" nature of her husband, although she clarifies that now "he has a little more patience."
"If you didn't follow his orders, he would get quite pissed off" Chico Flores
"Everything you are doing at Atalanta does not surprise me," warns Zapater. Of the battery of dogmas and automatisms of that Genoa, one of the sections that most caught his attention were the markings on the man, a rule that continues to apply in the Bergamo team, which he has led since 2016. “In defense we adapted to the rival. He would tell you: 'you don't swing, you don't cover the pass lane. That's your midfielder, so with him. ' That has its advantages and disadvantages, but I have a very positive memory ”, comments the captain from Zaragoza. And in attack, the first day he made a game change to the extreme, he was called to order. "His mandate was to get there through the pass underneath to make the opposite run and for us to move towards that area as well and, if we lost the ball, we were already positioned," he explains.
Despite its high participation That season (2,533 minutes, with four goals and four assists), the Aragonese was sold the following summer to Sporting de Portugal in a joint operation. A few weeks later, another Spaniard, the central Chico Flores, from Almería, appeared in the sports city of Villa Rostán in exchange for five million. It's been a decade since that, but the 34-year-old from Cádiz, retired after passing through Fuenlabrada, remembers two things about Gasperini very well: his attacking vocation and his character. "If you didn't follow his instructions, he would get quite pissed off," he repeats almost identically to Zapater. “He liked to keep the limits, that no one was above him. I suppose that some of that would happen with Papu [transferred to Sevilla after a confrontation with the coach]. But he never lost his papers. I have had coaches of everything. I have seen Joaquín Caparrós, who was a beautiful person, grab more than one colleague by the neck ”.
That 2010/11 campaign was the last of Gasperini's first stage at Genoa (he returned from 2013 to 2016). Flores only had it 11 games before leaving office, enough time for some ideas to be clear to him. “He told me that he signed me because I had a good ball out, he was fast and forceful. Although later he put me a lot of lane. And he wanted us all to attack. It touched me too. I saw myself in quite advanced situations and that was a novelty in my career ”, relates the Andalusian, with experience also in Swansea, Rubin Kazan and Mallorca.
"When he went to a winning Inter, I thought: 'collide with someone for sure" Alberto Zapater
“In the long run, his way of working has proved him right. He made good footballers who had practically no name, ”says Chico Flores. The 20 million that Atalanta paid for Muriel has been the largest outlay ever made by a club led by the Italian. The average cost of all transfers is 3.6 million.
“It builds author teams and makes them grow. He has a very particular idea of the game and he takes it to the last consequences. And so it should be. The footballer must see that the immovable is the coach. Before they depended more on the talent of the players, but now everything is well studied. That is why technicians are so important ”, Zapater conscientiously emphasizes. Only one destiny resisted Gasperini, Inter , where he barely endured five games in 2011/12, a skid that did not take the Zaragoza player by surprise after having lived with him. “That was a winning team of everything. I thought I was going to collide with someone safe ”, the Aragonese ditch.
You can follow SPORTS on Facebook and Twitter , or sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter .