Bologna look to continue their amazing Serie A season when they host Atalanta on Saturday, as the man behind their success, Giovanni Sartori, aims for another footballing miracle.
Manager Thiago Motta is rightly getting plenty of praise for his Bologna side’s steady rise up the standings, as their 2-0 win over AS Roma last weekend took them to fourth place, but behind the scenes Sartori is the unsung star.
The technical director is someone very known to Bologna’s next opponents Atalanta and their manager Gian Piero Gasperini. Together Sartori and Gasperini took Atalanta from relegation strugglers to regular Champions League play.
At Atalanta, Sartori brought in Gasperini and they both took advantage of the club’s great academy, as well as selling players for big money but always managing to replace them and improve the squad.
Sartori signed the likes of Robin Gosens, Ruslan Malinovskyi, Bryan Cristante, Duvan Zapata and Marten de Roon, giving Gasperini with the talent to take the club to new heights.
Before Atalanta, Sartori spent 12 years at Chievo Verona, taking them from obscurity in the third tier to the dizzy heights of European football, finding talents such as Andrea Barzagli, Simone Perrotta, Nicola Legrottaglie and Amauri.
In 2022, after breaking ways with Atalanta, Sartori arrived at Bologna. After a poor start to last season, he brought in Motta as manager, and they rose from fighting relegation to a ninth place finish.
Now the pair look set to take the club even higher, with Sartori’s signings of Lewis Ferguson, Joshua Zirkzee, Riccardo Calafiori, Remo Freuler and Sam Beukema impressing as Bologna continue their march up the table.
They have the third best defensive record in Serie A behind Inter Milan and Juventus, allowing 12 goals in 16 games, and their seven drawn games mean they may not always win but they rarely lose, suffering just two defeats to date.
They held both Inter and Juventus to draws away from home, and also drew with title winners Napoli, and the win over Roma was their sixth home victory in eight home games, and Atalanta, two points behind in seventh place, face a stern test.
Motta defeated Jose Mourinho last weekend, having played under the Portuguese boss at Inter where they won the treble in 2010. Before that he was part of Gasperini’s Genoa side which ended fifth in Serie A.
“I know Thiago well, his team plays the way he played, he never made mistakes,” Gasperini said after his side’s 4-1 win over Salernitana on Monday.
“They are patient and make big plays. It will be a good test for me too, against a person I know well.”
Bologna fans can hardly have expected their side to be a possible top-four side at Christmas, but they have done so thanks to Motta’s bold and fluid football, and Sartori’s ability to find new talent and replace those who move on.
Inter stretched their lead at the top over Juventus to four points last weekend and host 12th-placed Lecce on Saturday. Juve journey to face Frosinone, 13th in the standings, on the same day.
AC Milan, five points behind Juventus in third place and four ahead of Bologna, are away to bottom side Salernitana on Friday.
Roma welcome Napoli to the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday, with Mourinho’s side slipping to eighth place, two points behind t