In a football sphere defined and dominated by superclubs -- whether legacy institutions or generously bankrolled nouveau riche -- it's tempting to see the tale of Atalanta as the classic underdog story, using ingenuity, creativity and, above all, fearlessness to shake up the established order in both the Champions League and Serie A. And because we've all become cynical and hard-hearted (hey, it's 2020) we're not surprised they crashed back to earth when Paris Saint-Germain scored two late goals to defeat Atalanta 2-1 in the quarterfinals of the Champions League.
Money talks, except it's not quite like that.
First and foremost, there is a legacy left behind. Anybody who watched Atalanta this season will have learned a different way of playing and winning.
Manager Gian Piero Gasperini showed that with a bit of organization and a ton of courage and self-belief, a team with limited resources can be daring, entertaining and successful. The simple notion of wanting to outscore and outwork and outrun at all times is hugely liberating to any footballer. When dropped into the right framework, it turns average footballers into good ones, and good footballers into great ones. The difference between, say, a Duvan Zapata and a Harry Kane or Robert Lewandowski is not as great as we are led to believe. Only Manchester City and Bayern Munich -- clubs with wage bills 10-15 times as high -- outscored them in Europe's Big Five leagues this season.
There's something to learn here. The old notion whereby "you can't invent anything new in football" has been debunked yet again.
But this is more than just a brilliant, if sometimes prickly and difficult, manager and his footballing utopia come to life. It's also about catching lightning in a bottle, channelling a process of planned growth and unexpected breaks through the filter of a proud and, frankly, unique city and its fan base.