Demiral: ‘Gasperini? I don’t like how he treats players’


Former Juventus and Atalanta defender Merih Demiral offered his thoughts on the Coppa Italia and explained why he’s not surprised that La Dea have made it all the way to the final. The turkish international made the switch to the Saudi league last summer, amidst reports that he had fallen out with Gasperini over a transfer request to Inter. Speaking with La Gazzetta dello Sport, Demiral previewed Wednesday evenings Coppa final, explaining what he expects from either squad:

Are you more surprised by Juventus, who haven’t won a trophy since 2021, or by Atalanta, who reached the Coppa Italia-Europa League double final?

“I am more surprised by Juventus: from my experience, it’s almost three seasons without trophies. Atalanta doesn’t surprise me; they’ve been on an extraordinary journey for several years and deserve everything.”

Is there a favorite in the Coppa Italia final?

“No. It’s a 50-50 game. And I’m not saying this just because I’m a former player of both teams. Compared to 2021 when we triumphed, there is no Cristiano Ronaldo, Chiellini… Now Atalanta is stronger than before and closer in value to Juventus, who have many young players.”

The decisive man in 2021 was Chiesa: can it still be his cup?

“Fede is a top player and is returning to form as he was in his first season at Juve, when even Cristiano Ronaldo admired him. At the Olimpico, I’m betting on Chiesa. And if he recovers, also on my little brother Yildiz, who is a young talent with big potential. But keep an eye on La Dea and my friend Koopmeiners: he could be the star of both cups.”

Has Ronaldo ever asked you about your compatriot Yildiz?

“No, we’ve never talked about it. With Kenan, however, we talk often. He’s very happy at Juventus and hopes to play more and more. If he were to become the Bianconeri’s number 10 in the future, as Del Piero and Baggio were in the past, it would be a source of pride for me, for our national team, and for the whole of Turkey.”

Who does Yildiz remind you of?

“Kenan is quite unique, but he has something of Chiesa and in terms of mentality and work ethic, he approaches Ronaldo, who is still unreachable even at 39. Cristiano still trains more than anyone and always scores. I hope Szczesny is right: it would be nice if a Turk won the Ballon d’Or in the future. But for now, let’s leave Yildiz alone; he needs to approach the Euros with peace of mind.”

Do you still keep in touch with any former Atalanta teammates?

“Yes, Djimsiti and Koopmeiners. Teun has reached the peak of maturity, and it’s not just about goals.”

Koopmeiners is being targeted by Juventus and English clubs: have you talked about it?

“Already when we played together in Bergamo, Teun was intrigued by Juventus and my experience in Turin. He’s ready for the leap: if he asked me for advice, I’d tell him to go to Juventus immediately.”

Do you regret leaving Juventus after just two years and would you return in the future?

“Playing for Juventus and winning with that jersey was an honor. After Pirlo, I trained with Allegri for almost two months, but in the end, I thought it was better for me to play regularly at Atalanta.”

Pirlo was sacked after two trophies, Allegri is holding onto the Coppa Italia triumph to soften the season and the three years: what are your feelings from the outside?

“Pirlo is a legend and a great man, I’m glad he’s doing well at Samp. Whether Allegri stays or goes, I don’t know: I always wish the best for Juventus.”

The Bianconeri are in search of defenders. Looking to the future and a possible return to Juventus?

“In football, never say never: I’m happy in Arabia and I’ve found a growing football and people who treat me very well, but I would always be happy to return to Italy. If I stayed in Italy for 5 years and two in Turin, it’s also thanks to Paratici and Cristiano Ronaldo…”

Why Ronaldo?

“Cristiano was special to me from the first days we met; he gave me a lot of advice on and off the field. When I wanted to leave Juventus because of the competition from Chiellini, Bonucci, and De Ligt, he stopped to talk to me for an hour, explaining in great simplicity that I should stay because training with champions would make me grow. I did as Cristiano said, and I’m happy. Ronaldo and I still talk here in Arabia: he’s my friend and reference point.”

Have you clarified things with Gasperini after the summer split?

“I didn’t say goodbye to him when I left Bergamo, and he didn’t reach out to me anymore. Gasperini as a coach is not up for debate, results speak for him. But I don’t like his way of treating players. Humanly, I prefer De Zerbi, Sarri, and Pirlo: I would go to dinner with them, not with Gasperini.”

Which former Juventus and Atalanta teammates would you recommend for an experience in Arabia?

“Practically all of them. Here I have found football on a great upward trajectory, and I am convinced that soon the level will be close to European standards. In the summer, more champions will arrive.”


Serie A obsessive.