August 11, 2022

‘It’s an extraordinary friendship they have’

Atalanta manager Gian Piero Gasperini has praised the ‘extraordinary’ friendship between Russian midfielder Aleksei Miranchuk and Ukraine star Ruslan Malinovskyi.

As Russia continues to invade Ukraine, the two players both played a part for Atalanta as the Serie A side secured a 3-2 win over Bayer Leverkusen in the first leg of their Europa League last 16 clash.

Malinovskyi scored and registered two assists for the Italian side against the German outfit, while Miranchuk replaced Luis Muriel late on in the tie.

After the match, manager Gasperini discussed the current situation that both Miranchuk and Malinovskyi were facing.

“He and his family are going through something,” Gasperini told Sky Sport Italia when asked about Malinovskyi.

“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.”

Former Middlesbrough man Maarten de Roon also spoke about the situation in Ukraine, suggesting that it ‘complicated’ to disconnect from what is happening in the dressing room.

“Ruslan has his family there, there is always difficult news, it is complicated to disconnect from it in the dressing room,” he said.

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“We try to help them, but it’s really complex, we who have family in other countries can’t even imagine all that.”

Ex-Chelsea man Davide Zappacosta added: “Malinovskyi and Miranchuk? At this moment the situation is not easy for anyone, we could not imagine it would come to this.

“We try to stay close to them, who are great friends: their beautiful friendship should be shown as an example to those who are fighting this senseless war.”

A flag was displayed at Atalanta’s Gewiss Stadium during the game, depicting Miranchuk and Malinovskyi holding hands and carrying the colours of the players’ national flags.

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