Former Atalanta players Joakim Maehle and Merih Demiral claim Gian Piero Gasperini had a ‘dictatorial approach’ during their time at the club. The pair have both left La Dea in recent years, and speaking in an interview as quoted by tipsbladet.dk, Maehle lifted the lid on what life was like under his former coach:
“I needed a challenge at this point in my career. Somewhere where I get a slightly different role than the one I had at Atalanta, where you are perhaps a bit more of a number on the block. In Wolfsburg, you’re a bit more part of a squad, and there’s a bit more togetherness and spirit in the dressing room. And I think that’s what I’ve been looking for.
“I’m super happy to have come to a place where you can feel that everything is under control.”
“(At Atalanta) It was very much like that, we always trained in the afternoon. The coach decided everything. And there wasn’t really any freedom. Even if you lived in a nice place and the weather was good, you didn’t have time to enjoy it because we spent so many days and so many hours at the training facility.
“It was super hard mentally. Also the fact that you might have played a good game at the weekend, but if you play 20 lukewarm minutes in the next game, you’re back at the back of the queue again. So there wasn’t the continuity and consistency that you see in many other places. Mentally, I could feel that I really needed a change of scenery.”
“Did Gasperini have an almost dictatorial approach? Now you said it. I didn’t want to say it before, because I was afraid that you might write something… it was like he really decided everything. For example, if we had a double training session, he might say after training in the afternoon that we should stay and sleep at the facility tonight, because he thought we should. Then you weren’t allowed to come home. Instead, you had to stay at the facility. And that was just the way it was.”
“A fear-based management style? Yes, a little bit. But then you could say that I may have tried the ultimate in such … you can call it bad management, or whatever it is, I don’t know. But at least it’s different. And then I’m at least prepared for later experiences in my career.
“You don’t feel like a person. You feel like a number. You don’t have a relationship with the coach. He can stand there and slag you off for something weird. For example, he called me names when Rasmus (Højlund, ed.) came down there because Rasmus and I drove together to training.”
“He didn’t want us to drive together. Because then we could sit and talk on the way to training and enjoy ourselves. He didn’t want that, and I got scolded for that. That I took Rasmus with me, even though I had been told by the club that I was allowed to take Rasmus to training because then they didn’t have to have a driver for him.
“So it’s things like that… I don’t know if it’s typical of Italians, but it’s just things that make you get angry and tired of it in the long run.”
Replying to the story on social media, Demiral made a brief comment saying “It’s all true.”
Tutto e vero????????????
— Merih Demiral (@Merihdemiral) September 5, 2023