Italian coach comments on relations between Russian & Ukrainian teammates
Atalanta teammates Alexey Miranchuk and Ruslan Malinovskyi have maintained a strong friendship despite hailing from countries on opposite sides of the Ukrainian crisis, coach Gian Piero Gasperini has said.
Russian international Miranchuk and Ukrainian midfielder Malinovskyi both play their club football at the Serie A team and featured in the Europa League victory against German club Bayer Leverkusen in Italy on Thursday night.
Malinovskyi started the match, scoring the first of Atalanta’s goals and laying on two assists in their 3-2 win, while Miranchuk was introduced as a 77th-minute substitute.
A banner in the stands at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia in Bergamo was unveiled by fans showing images of both players in front of their respective national flags and shaking hands.
Atalanta boss Gasperini admitted that the situation in Ukraine had affected Malinovskyi but that his friendship with Miranchuk remained.
“He and his family are going through something,” Gasperini told Sky Sport Italia.
“We spend a lot of our time as a squad watching the news. This has shaken us up perhaps even more than Covid, and that hit Bergamo hard.
“Clearly, he has family and friends still there. We are also close to Miranchuk. It’s an extraordinary friendship they have, Miranchuk feels almost embarrassed by the situation.
“People matter more than flags and borders, this is a good lad and he deserves respect too,” the 64-year-old added.
Miranchuk, 26, signed for Atalanta from Lokomotiv Moscow in September of 2020, in a deal worth a reported €14.5 million ($15.9 million).
The 28-year-old Malinovskyi has been at the Italian club since 2019, when he joined from Belgian team Genk in a transfer said to be valued at just over €13.5 million.
The Ukraine international has since contributed 29 goals and 23 assists in 118 appearances for the Italians.