La Festa della Dea – or “Festival of the Goddess” – is an annual celebration of Atalanta Bergamasca Calcio led by The Curva Nord 1970, the Serie A club’s Ultra group which occupies the North stand of the Stadia Atleti Azzuri d’Italia. Much googling leads me to believe the Curva Nord take great pride in their motto of “We Hate Everybody”, it is a sentiment that I can very much get behind.
I have to admit to a limited knowledge of modern day Italian football but I had set my sights on Atalanta as my FM21 club very early on this year. Upon noticing them battling it out for the Serie A title, it felt that they fitted my intended challenge for this upcoming edition of the game. I often tend to take on the so called fallen giants, middling clubs or second tier sides but I’ve decided this year that I want the added challenge of playing with a club with much higher immediate expectations.
Another thing that attracted me was the club’s reference to Greek mythology – taking their name from the goddess Atalanta. The legend goes that Atalanta was not interested in being tied by marriage, despite the wishes of her father, and so agreed only to marry if the suitor could outrun her in a footrace. Many tried and failed, unable to match the heroine’s athleticism, until Hippomenes sought the help of Aphrodite the goddess of love. Aphrodite gifted Hippomenes three golden apples which were so irresistible that they distracted Atalanta during her race, allowing Hippomenes to win the prize of her hand in wedlock. Other accounts claim Atalanta had an interest in Hippomenes, the grandson of Poseiden, and so wanted him to win the race. Alas, I digress.
The Pillars of the Parthenon
There are several reasons that came into my thinking when finally deciding upon this club. The mythology may play some part in several forms as my save progresses.
The three apples were challenges that Atalanta was unable to overcome. Domestically, I expect Juventus and Inter Milan to be two of the apples that will challenge me on my quest for victory. You could pick any one of AC Milan, Napoli, Lazio or Roma to be third apple.
Atalanta was famed for her athleticism, hence the challenge of a footrace to avoid having to marry. I want to build a squad that is famed for the same. The style of play I want to implement will require high levels of fitness and determination: a team with the ability to press relentlessly like Klopp’s Liverpool and counter attack at speed like an iconic Real Madrid at their best.
Aside from the challenge of wanting to take a team in the higher reaches of the table, I also wanted to play with a three-at-the-back formation and Gian Piero Gasperini has made that a staple of his time at Atalanta. Having a stable trio at the back should give a solid base for me to set about the playing style I’m craving.
Key Players for 2020-21
Atalanta have built themselves a fairly well rounded squad, despite the loss of Timothy Castange in a summer move to Leicester. With that in mind, I don’t see any reason why I would need to make any changes in the initial transfer window.
A lot of people, through both real world football and FM, talk about the importance of having a solid spine to the team. Thinking from that perspective, the following four players are those I see as key to my beginnings with La Dea:
Marco Sportiello: At 28 years old, he’ll just be coming into his prime as a goalkeeper. He is a product of the highly acclaimed Atalanta youth system who returned to the club in 2013 after spells in Lega Pro on co-ownership and loan deals. Sportiello departed Bergamo again in 2017 for an 18-month loan deal with Fiorentina and spent a further season on loan with Frosinone before returning to Atalanta once again in 2019 as second choice between the sticks. He has made himself the number one choice for 2020-21 and will begin as such for me.
José Luis Palomino: The Argentine centre-back spent the first five seasons of his career in the Argentine Primera Division with San Lorenzo and Argentinos Juniors before making his way to Europe with Metz of France. After a season with Ludogorets in Bulgaria, Palomino made the switch to Atalanta in 2017 and has become a mainstay of the team for much of his time there. At 30 years old, he has the experience to lead the backline and will be a leader in all but the official capacity.
Alejandro “Papu” Gómez: Another experienced Argentine, Gomez also began his career in the Primera Division. Having played for Arsenal de Sarandí and San Lorenzo (spending a season in the same side as Palomino), Gómez made the move to Catania in 2010 spending three seasons with the Sicilian side before an ill-fated season in Ukraine with Metalist Kharkiv. A swift return to Italy was manufactured in 2014 and Papu has become an icon at the club. The club captain has described himself as a “false second striker” and will be key in the attacking play, capable of scoring and providing goals.
Duván Zapata: The 29-year-old Colombian striker made his breakthrough at the famous América de Cali before three seasons at Estudiantes – two iconic clubs of FM blogging. A 2013 move to Napoli saw Zapata make a name for himself in Serie A with loan spells at Udinese and Sampdoria, joining the latter after an obligation to buy clause was followed. In the summer of 2018 Zapata made his loan move to Atalanta with the Bergamo club enacting their option to purchase 18 months into his initial 24 month loan. Zapata is a pacy striker with an impressive physique which will lend itself well to my intended style of play.
Aims, Objectives and Expectations
It always feels like a good idea to think about what you want to achieve with a save before starting. The beauty of playing FM is how unique it is in the journey of a save – the yardstick for success is entirely subjective. For some, a good save is taking a small club and becoming a dominant force in world football. For others, taking moderate acclaim with a big club would suffice.
I never expected to be weighed down with trophies in FM – I’m really not that good at the game. I’ll be happy to stabilise Atalanta as a regular Champions League competitor, make an odd claim for the cup competitions and become competitive in title races… even if not actually being successful in them.
There is always the chance that it all goes wrong and I get sacked early on. Afterall, the average Serie A manager only lasts around 16 months, or at least that form part of my carefully crafted statement anyway…