Global EditionASIA 中文双语Français
Home / Sports / Soccer

Lookman's hat-trick nets him a place in history

Updated: 2024-05-24 09:10
Share - WeChat
Ademola Lookman and his family celebrate with the trophy at the end of the Europa League final between Atalanta and Bayer Leverkusen at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Thursday. Atlanta won 3-0, thanks to a stunning hat-trick by Lookman. AP

The unlikely answer to the question of who would score the first hat-trick in a men's European club final since 1975 came on Wednesday.

Ademola Lookman scored all three goals in Atalanta's comprehensive 3-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen in the Europa League final, and each one had much to admire.

Stealth in the penalty area, balance on the ball, deft footwork and precise shooting with both feet were all factors in a standout performance.

And, yet, even Atalanta coach, Gian Piero Gasperini, acknowledged he was not buying a pure striker when Lookman arrived at the club two years ago.

"He wasn't overly prolific in England," Gasperini said of the player who was bought from Leipzig, yet had spent the previous two years on loan at Fulham and Leicester in the Premier League.

Lookman had also been a winger at Everton, yet slipped through the net there, after being allowed out on loan to Leipzig and then sold.

Joining Atalanta at almost 25, Lookman had never scored 10 goals in a season. He has now scored 15 times in each of his two seasons in Italy.

The London-born Nigeria international offered a hat-trick of ideas after the game for why he has flourished.

Love and support from his family and African home, the trust he felt from Gasperini's managing, and the calmness of life in the picturesque city of Bergamo.

"The unwavering support I get and the love back home from people is unbelievable," said Lookman, who won an Under-20 World Cup with England, before changing his national allegiance to Nigeria in 2022.

"It gives me the motivation to try to inspire myself."

On Gasperini, the 20-year veteran Italian club coach, he said: "The first few conversations I had with him made me look at football differently. He made things simpler in my mind, helped me see my game in a different light."

For a former resident of London and Liverpool, Lookman said his new home city "gives me a sense of calmness. It has helped me a lot in terms of my lifestyle."

Lookman's family was on the field with him Wednesday, helping him show off the trophy his goals secured for Atalanta — the club's first senior title for 61 years.

"I have a lot of love for the people I call family. I owe them a lot," he said.

Atalanta captain Berat Djimsiti said he told Lookman before the game: "We need the best version of Ademola."

"I see it for myself in every training session. It's hard to play against him," Djimsiti said, "and today, he was incredible."

Atalanta will be in the Champions League next year, and should have Lookman for a full season. He was away with Nigeria through January for the African Cup of Nations.

"He has had a great year, albeit being interrupted by AFCON," Gasperini said. "He was gone for a long while."

Now Lookman enters European soccer history as the first hat-trick scorer in a club final since Jupp Heynckes for Borussia Monchengladbach in the 1975 UEFA Cup. That came in a 5-1 win over Twente in the return game of what was then a two-leg final.

Among the few men who have scored hat-tricks in European finals are Real Madrid greats Ferenc Puskas and Alfredo di Stefano, both more than 60 years ago.

Now on that storied list, Lookman, Gasperini said, "has established himself as a match winner".

Lookman also helped fire Nigeria to the final of the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year, and believes his career is ready to explode at the age of 26.

"It's one of the best nights of my life," said Lookman.

"I've always had confidence in my ability to create, to score goals, to help my teammates.

"In the past few years I've been able to take my game to a new level and show that on a more consistent basis.

"I'm pleased with the progress I've made, but this is just the beginning. I hope for more nights like this."

Rough diamonds

Lookman is far from the only rough diamond that Gasperini has polished in the process of turning Atalanta into a force in Serie A and on the continent.

Alongside Lookman, Gasperini crafted a fearsome front three with Charles De Ketelaere and Gianluca Scamacca this season, a pair who previously endured difficult spells at AC Milan and West Ham, respectively.

Gasperini reiterated his feeling that it did not take a trophy to vindicate the fine work he has done over the past eight years.

"I never believed one trophy would change our journey — the run we have been on is worth more than one piece of silverware," said the 66-year-old.

"The game we have played tonight is the result of the journey."

However, Gasperini did acknowledge that Atlanta's first major trophy for 61 years — and the first of his coaching career — was a rare victory for the underdog in a sport usually dominated by the clubs with the deepest pockets.

"To win it with Atalanta is perhaps one of the football fairytales. There is scope for meritocracy and ideas," said Gasperini.

"It doesn't always come down to cold hard numbers or super leagues, but shows that teams without huge budgets can achieve big things."


Most Popular


What's Hot
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349