Ademola Lookman: The hattrick hero who handed Atalanta first Europa trophy

 Ademola Lookman: The hattrick hero who handed Atalanta first Europa trophy

In a night at Dublin Arena that will be etched in the memories of Atalanta fans forever, Ademola Lookman emerged as the  hero, scoring a stunning hat-trick to lead his team to a historic 3-0 victory over Bayer Leverkusen in the Europa League final. This win marked Atalanta’s first major trophy in 61 years, while also ending Leverkusen’s impressive 51-game unbeaten streak.

The Nigerian will be remembered for years to come, as he the first person to score a hat-trick in a Europa league final.

The win also ended coach Gian Piero Gasperini’s own two-decade-long pursuit of major silverware as his side totally outplayed Xabi Alonso’s Leverkusen or ‘Neverlusen’ as they had been dubbed after going an incredible 51 games unbeaten.

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Lookman was born in England to Nigeria parents. He had previously represented England in the FIFA 2017 U-20 World Cup where he scored three goals as the three lions went on to win the competition.

After previously rejecting Nigeria’s approaches in 2017 and 2018, the Nigerian Football Federation announced in January 2020 that the British-Nigerian would be switching his international allegiance to Nigeria.

FIFA granted Lookman’s request to play for the Super Eagles on February 10, 2022. He was instrumental as Nigeria got to the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations held in the Ivory Coast where they eventually lost to the host country.

The 26 year old’s journey to this moment was far from straightforward. He had previously struggled to find his footing in England after making his senior debut for Charlton Athletic. Later signed for Everton where he made his first european appearance in a 1-0 win over MFK Ruzomberok in the Europa League third qualifying round first leg.

The Toffees later loaned and later sold him to RB Leipzig who also loaned him out for two years to Fulham and Leicester City. However, a year later, Lookman joined Serie A club Atalanta on a four-year contract from RB Leipzig for a reported fee of €15 million.

The Nigerian has since then found his footing in Italy under the guidance of Atalanta, coach Gian Piero Gasperini as he has scored 30 goals in 76 appearances for the La Dea since he his arrival.

The Europa League final hat-trick and man of the match hero credited Gasperini’s attacking style of football for his resurgence, saying, “The first conversations I had with him made me look at football a lot different. It made things simple. It allowed me to play my game in a different light. I’m very grateful to him”.

Gasperini, too, was effusive in his praise, marveling at Lookman’s development and attributing the team’s success to their collective efforts. He noted, “It’s perhaps one of those footballing fairy tales that very rarely crop up. It does give scope for meritocracy and ideas. It shows that it doesn’t only come down to cold, hard numbers and super leagues”.

As the Europa League final got underway, few could have predicted the impact Lookman would have had on the game. But from the moment he opened the scoring, it was clear that that was his night. Two more goals followed, each one a testament to his speed, agility, and ruthless finishing ability.

Lookman’s hat-trick proved to be more than simply a one-man show in the end; it was also evidence of the strength of determination, commitment, and perseverance.

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