Monday, June 17, 2024

La Dea Dreamland & Leverkusen Heartbreak: A Look At The Europa League’s Biggest Talking Points From This Season

Tom Dunstan in Editorial, UEFA Europa League 2 Jun 2024

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Atalanta spring an almighty Europa League upset

Arriving in Dublin on May 22nd for their date with destiny, it was no secret that German record-breakers Bayer Leverkusen were stealing all of the headlines and attention.

However, although Atalanta might have largely played a back-up role in the build up to this season’s Europa League final, the Italian outfit made a stunning statement at the Aviva Stadium as they got their hands on a maiden piece of European silverware.

With one-time Charlton starlet Ademola Lookman bagging a famous hat-trick in the Irish capital, Gian Piero Gasperini’s side stormed their way to an iconic 3-0 romp amidst emotional scenes.

While Atalanta might have faced some monumental challenges during their European fairytale this season, La Dea overcome the likes of Premier League giants Liverpool in a masterful fashion.

With former West Ham misfit Gianluca Scamacca spearheading their charge to Dublin after recording six Europa League strikes, Gasperini’s history-making squad were certainly this season’s ultimate dark horse.

‘The Lookman Final’

Although all of Gasperini’s squad might have written themselves into the Europa League history books, there is no doubt that this season’s showpiece event will be forever remembered as ‘The Lookman Final’.

While Lookman might have been left as an unused substitute when Atalanta secured their iconic 3-0 romp away at Liverpool on April 11th, the Nigeria international has been the poster boy behind La Dea’s famous Europa League success this season.

Lookman’s hat-trick for Atalanta was the sixth to be scored in a major UEFA final. It was the first since Jupp Heynckes’ for Borussia Monchengladbach against FC Twente in 1975, which was the only other one to be scored in a UEFA Cup/Europa League final.

Finding a home since arriving in Bergamo two years ago, the former England U21 international has received a string of plaudits from across the content and appears to have some major admirers.

Really putting himself front and centre on the grandest of stages in Dublin, it is no surprise that plenty of European heavyweights are weighing up a summer swoop for Lookman.

Leverkusen fall short on the biggest of stages

Making major Bundesliga history this season as they stormed their way to a first domestic crown, there is no doubt that Bayer Leverkusen have stolen all of Europe’s headlines throughout the 2023/24 campaign.

Remarkably not suffering a single defeat from any of their 34 Bundesliga appearances this season and breezing their way to invincible status, Xabi Alonso’s side had gained a fearsome reputation from across the continent.

However, although the German trailblazers might have opened their Europa League final tipped as a standout contender, Leverkusen failed to find any kind of fluidity on the grandest of stages.

Blown away by Atalanta in Dublin and eventually falling short in a dramatic fashion, the one-time Real Madrid midfielder will certainly look back at this year’s Europa League adventure as a real missed opportunity.

While Leverkusen might have only continued to break a string of Bundesliga records this season as they completed a domestic sweep, Alonso’s side will have some regrets.

English clubs struggle on the continent

With it announced back in January that Jurgen Klopp would be leaving Liverpool at the end of the 2023/24 campaign, the Premier League heavyweights were desperate to sign off the German’s tenure with a second European trophy.

However, although the Reds might have opened their knockout stage adventure with a stunning 11-2 aggregate scoreline, Klopp’s side drastically failed to live up to their billing as a standout contender.

While Liverpool might have come under plenty of scrutiny back in April as they suffered a shock 3-1 aggregate defeat at the hands of eventual winners Atalanta, they were not the only English club to struggle on the continent.

Alongside West Ham suffering quarter-final heartbreak against Leverkusen, Brighton watched their European adventure come to a thumping halt.

Falling to a 4-1 aggregate defeat against Roma in the Round of 16, no English club managed to secure a final four ticket this season and that proved to be a critical blow in England’s chance of being handed an additional Champions League spot.


Tom Dunstan

Formerly of The Independent, Tom has spent the past six years as one of our senior writers and betting experts. Alongside working with numerous publications from across the globe, Tom also graduated from the University of Falmouth in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Digital Media.
Spending almost the past decade working in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada, he has also spent time featuring in sports radio. Tom can be followed on Instagram - @iamtomdunstan



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