Duván Zapata – a Breakout Season

Zapata
ROME, ITALY - MAY 05: Duvan Zapata of Atalanta BC celebrates after scoring the team's first goal during the Serie A match between SS Lazio and Atalanta BC at Stadio Olimpico on May 5, 2019 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)

Duván Zapata is enjoying the most prolific season of his career. He has been a solid striker in Serie A for a few years but was never before seen as anything more than a mid-table starter. The 28-year-old now has Atalanta on the brink of Champions League qualification. Furthermore, the Nerazzurri are in contention for silverware in the Coppa Italia final. With everything to play for, Zapata has consistently stepped up to the plate.

Duván Zapata’s Breakout Season

Serie A Beginnings

Zapata had been a journeyman in Italy ever since leaving Colombia. In 2013, Zapata secured a move to Napoli. This was seen as a major accomplishment, as Napoli had re-established themselves as an Italian power. Not able to find consistent time in their rotation, he was loaned out to Udinese.

Scoring 18 goals in 63 league matches, Zapata failed to make an impression for Udinese. Sampdoria was the next time to generate interest on a loan deal. Zapata was solid and scored 11 goals in his one league campaign. Flip-flopping teams again, Zapata joined Atalanta in the summer of 2018 and emerged as one of the top attacking threats in Serie A.

This Season for Atalanta

Zapata is taking Italy by storm. Atalanta sit at 65 points and the odds are in their favour to qualify for the Champions League. Of course, Zapata is a catalyst for this end goal. Twenty-two goals and seven assists in 35 league appearances speak for itself.

He sits at second in the Capocannoniere race, trailing Fabio Quagliarella by three goals. His seven assists are also tied for eighth most in the league, ahead of notable names like Miralem Pjanić and Lorenzo Insigne.

The Colombian’s contributions in the Coppa Italia have not gone unnoticed either. Three goals in four matches isn’t extraordinary, but they’ve been crucial in Atalanta’s journey to the final. The Nerazzurri take on Lazio on May 15th, and Zapata will surely lead the line up front.

Lastly, Zapata is the only true and dependable striker in Atalanta’s squad. Alejandro Gomez remains the face of the team and a goal threat, but he is a traditional winger. Josip Iličić is a fantastic player and has been a constant goal threat, but he too is not a traditional number nine.

That leaves Musa Barrow as the back-up striker. Barrow is young and full of energy, but not ready for the stage that Atalanta has placed itself upon. His four goals in 32 matches is enough to show this.

Looking Forward

Besides the cup final, Atalanta will place their focus on Champions League qualification. Four days after the final they will take on Juventus in a crucial match. Juventus has already won the league, but will surely look to win in front of their home crowd before lifting their trophy.

Atalanta need to put their all in this game, as AC Milan should come out with three points versus Frosinone. The Rossoneri have the upper hand on Atalanta should they finished tied on points due to head-to-head.

If Atalanta managed to come out on top versus Juventus, they have another test in Sassuolo to close out the year. Sassuolo are not quite a team to fear, but they can easily put up a fight. Zapata must keep his foot on the pedal to ensure both silverware and Champions League qualification, something that will place his name in Atalanta lore for years to come.

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