Serie A's signing of the season! Lookman proves worth to Atalanta & Nigeria with double against Juventus
Juventus really needed a win on Sunday night. It'd been a rough week.
They spent the first part of it coming to terms with a humiliating 5-1 loss at Napoli, effectively ending their hopes of catching the runaway Serie A leaders at the top of the table.
On Friday, though, things went from bad to worse, when the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) announced that the Old Lady had been docked 15 points over financial irregularities related to recent transfers.
In the space of seven days, Juve had gone from title challengers to also-rans.
Even their hopes of finishing in the top four – absolutely essential for a club in such a fragile financial situation – had been left hanging by a string.
Juve, then, were desperate for three precious points against Atalanta.
They had to settle for one, though, at the end of an absorbing 3-3 draw that did little for Juve's top-four prospects, but only strengthened Ademola Lookman's claim on the title of Serie A’s signing of the season.
At the very least, the Atalanta winger is the most in-form forward in the league right now.
Indeed, while Juve were enduring one of the worst weeks of their entire history, Lookman was enjoying the best week of his career.
He scored six times in three games in all competitions, including a double in Turin that took his tally to 10 goals in his last 11 Serie A games.
L⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️KM🅰️🅰️N— Atalanta B.C. (@Atalanta_BC) January 22, 2023
La settimana di Ademola 👆@Alookman_'s week 👌🏾👀👌🏾#JuveAtalanta #GoAtalantaGo ⚫️🔵 pic.twitter.com/zKjxj1CPrK
His first strike against Juve was undeniably fortuitous, with Wojciech Szczesny making a mess of his low effort from wide on the right.
His second, though, was a stunning header which saw him time his run across his marker superbly before adjusting his body brilliantly to guide the ball into the back of the net.
It was a goal that illustrated just how much confidence he is playing with right now, which is remarkable for a player who had been deemed surplus to requirements at RB Leipzig after loan spells at Fulham and Leicester.
But Lookman had never lost faith in his ability, even during the tough times.
He was widely ridiculed for his Panenka fail at Fulham three years ago and has publicly admitted that the miss devastated him.
However, the Charlton academy product also spoke about trying to turn a very negative experience into a positive, using his pain to motivate him, to improve as a player and a person, and to belatedly realise the enormous potential that was obvious during England's Under-20 World Cup win in 2017.
Happily, he might be on the verge of doing just that, having maybe finally arrived at the right club at the right time.
He certainly feels he's playing for the right coach, having recently labelled Gian Piero Gasperini as the best manager he's worked under, despite only joining Atalanta last summer.
Gasperini is just as taken with Lookman, who was signed on the recommendation of Lee Congerton.
The Welshman, who joined Atalanta last year as head of international development, had worked with Lookman at Leicester and believed he would be a good fit for Gasperini's brand of football.
He wasn't wrong. Lookman now has 11 goals in Serie A this season – only Napoli's Victor Osimhen has more.
That's obviously a cause for celebration for Atalanta, but also Nigeria.
Happy 62nd Independence Day Nigeria 🇳🇬💚 pic.twitter.com/1TxxVSMLgJ— Ademola Lookman (@Alookman_) October 1, 2022
Lookman was born and raised in England. However, both of his parents hail from Nigeria and he declared for the Super Eagles last year.
His fine form is, thus, a huge boost for a nation looking to recover from the disappointment of failing to qualify for last year's World Cup.
Indeed, there is a feeling that there is even more to come from Lookman.
Gasperini is adamant that he has all of the attributes required to become Atalanta's next big attacking star.
"He always knows what to do," Gasperini said. "He moves well, he's fast, he's good technique.
"Aside from the goals, what's important is the contribution he consistently makes.
"He's a kid that has already understood many things, how to move, how to play, how to train.
"He spent time developing in Leipzig and that's a great school, so for us, he's truly a great signing."
Indeed, Atalanta paid just €9 million (£8m/$10m) for the revelation of the Serie A season so far.
On a night when much of the talk in Turin centred around artificial capital gains, Lookman proved himself a real bargain buy.