The Bergamo side are just one step away from making the quarter-finals, however, according to the Bianconeri supremo, they should not be there at all
Free-scoring Atalanta have won friends at home and abroad for their exploits during the past couple of seasons, but they have not impressed Juventus president Andrea Agnelli.
The Bergamo side clinched the third of Serie A’s four qualification places for the Champions League in 2019-20, thanks in part to the goalscoring heroics of Duvan Zapata who smashed 23 goals to complete before Cristiano Ronaldo at the top scorer table.
All indications suggest they are on course to have an equally powerful effort this time around as they sit in fourth place, three points clear of Roma in fifth.
Atalanta were also the sole Italian team to win their first leg in the Champions League last 16, with a 4-1 thrashing of Valencia that leaves them well-placed to get to the quarter-finals.
However, Agnelli, whose Juve side went down to Lyon, argues that they shouldn’t be rubbing shoulders with Europe’s elite in the first location.
“I have great respect for everything that Atalanta do, but without global history and thanks to just one great season, they had immediate access into the principal European club competition. Is that correct or not?” Agnelli told the FT Business of Football Summit in London.
“Then I think of Roma, who led in recent years to preserving Italy’s ranking. They had one bad season and are outside, with the consequent damage to them financially.”
Agnelli has been among the most vocal proponents in recent years of the formation of a European Super League, which would ring-fence the top level of continental contest to a select variety of clubs and restrict entry for the likes of Atalanta.
But he insists that such moves are essential to be able to avoid enormous losses when the so-called giants don’t make the grade on the pitch.
“We must also protect the investment and prices. So could Atalanta therefore have less opportunity of playing at a high level?” he pondered
“I don’t have the reply to that, it is just about establishing a transparent procedure to make this choice.
“There are teams that won the league or cup and attain qualification just on the basis of the nation’s ranking. The point is how we balance the contribution to European soccer and the operation of one year.”