Neymar and financial gulf with PSG don’t faze Atalanta

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LISBON (Reuters) – Atalanta’s unexpected run to the Champions League quarter-finals brings the Bergamo club up against one of the most expensive players in world football on Wednesday when they take on Paris Saint Germain and their Brazil forward Neymar.

The French club smashed the world record transfer fee when they spent 222 million euros (199.58 million pounds) to prise Neymar away from Barcelona three years ago with the aim of finally reaching the pinnacle in European football.

The cost of that transfer is more than double the amount spent on the entire Atalanta squad, whose own record signing, Colombian Luis Muriel, cost less than a tenth of Neymar’s price.

But when the teams meet behind closed doors at the Estadio da Luz in the Portuguese capital in the so-called ‘Final Eight’, Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini will be focused on the task of limiting the impact of the Brazilian on the field.

“Undoubtedly Neymar is one of the strongest players in the world so this is a problem for all the teams that come up against him,” Gasperini told a news conference.

“I think the best way to defend against him is for us to play well and maybe even put him in a position where he has to defend sometimes. That would be ideal. Then we will try to do it with the team, we will try to do it with our organisation.

“We have met so many really strong players in this competition, he is certainly one of them. I think that with everyone’s attention we can try to reduce his effectiveness a little,” he added.

The 62-year-old Italian will draw on his team’s impressive spirit, organisation and attacking flair and said he had little interest in comparing the financial gulf between the two clubs.

“I don’t rank things in that way. I have read that there are resources (for PSG) that are unlimited that the income available to allow them to make top choices. We don’t focus on this but clearly it carries some weight.

“But then when this type of competition arrives, we have to look at ourselves, we have to look at what we actually have available to us (on the field) and I think we have many (resources) and a lot of strengths,” he said.

Bergamo has been one of the cities most affected by the novel coronavirus in Italy and Gasperini said he hoped his team could continue to boost morale for the area.

“With what has unfortunately happened, we certainly carry with us all the feelings of our fans even if we must necessarily reduce a football match to a game, even one with many important implications.

“But we must represent in the best way what our region is about, which is the ability to react to start again and if possible also, as I have said many times, to give people something to smile about”.

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