Atalanta's Ademola Lookman celebrates with family members holding the trophy...

Atalanta's Ademola Lookman celebrates with family members holding the trophy after his team won the Europa League final soccer match between Atalanta and Bayer Leverkusen at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland, Wednesday, May 22, 2024. Credit: AP/Kirsty Wigglesworth

DUBLIN — There was an unlikely answer Wednesday to the question of who would score the first hat trick in a men’s European club final since 1975.

Ademola Lookman scored all three goals in Atalanta’s 3-0 beating of Bayer Leverkusen to win the Europa League title and each had much to admire.

Stealth in the penalty area, balance on the ball, deft footwork, and precise shooting with both feet were factors in a standout performance.

And yet even Atalanta coach, Gian Piero Gasperini, acknowledged he was not buying a pure striker when Lookman arrived at the club two years ago.

“He wasn’t overly prolific in England,” Gasperini said of a player who was bought from Leipzig, yet had spent the previous two years on loan at Fulham and Leicester in the Premier League.

Lookman also had been a winger at Everton, yet also slipped through the net there after being allowed out on loan to Leipzig and then sold.

Joining Atalanta at almost 25, Lookman had never scored 10 goals in a season. He has now scored 15 times in each of his two seasons in Italy.

Atalanta's Ademola Lookman celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal...

Atalanta's Ademola Lookman celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal during the Europa League final soccer match between Atalanta and Bayer Leverkusen at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland, Wednesday, May 22, 2024. Credit: AP/Frank Augstein

The London-born Nigeria international offered a hat trick of ideas after the game for why he has flourished.

Love and support from his family and African home. The trust he felt from Gasperini’s managing. The calmness of life in the picturesque city of Bergamo.

“The unwavering support I get and the love back home from people is unbelievable,” said Lookman, who won an Under-20 World Cup with England before changing eligibility to play for Nigeria in 2022. “It gives me the motivation to try to inspire myself.”

On Gasperini, a 20-year veteran of coaching at Italian clubs, he said: “The first few conversations I had with him made me look at football a lot different. Made things simpler in my mind, play my game in a different light.”

Atalanta's Ademola Lookman scores his side's second goal during the...

Atalanta's Ademola Lookman scores his side's second goal during the Europa League final soccer match between Atalanta and Bayer Leverkusen at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland, Wednesday, May 22, 2024. Credit: AP/Kirsty Wigglesworth

For a former resident of London and Liverpool, Lookman said his new home city “gives me a sense of calmness. It has helped me a lot in terms of my living style.”

Lookman’s family was on the field with him Wednesday, helping him show off the trophy he helped secure for Atalanta – the club’s first senior title for 61 years.

“I have a lot of love for the people I call family. I owe them a lot,” he said.

Atalanta captain Berat Djimsiti said he told Lookman before the game “we need the best version of Ademola.”

“I see it for myself in every training it's hard to play against him," Djimsiti said, “and today was incredible.”

Atalanta will be in the Champions League next season and should have Lookman for a full season. He was away with Nigeria through January for the African Cup of Nations.

“He has had a great year, albeit it was interrupted by Afcon,” Gasperini said. “He was gone for a long while.”

Now Lookman enters European soccer history as the first hat trick scorer in a club final since Jupp Heynckes for Borussia Mönchengladbach in the 1975 UEFA Cup. That came in a 5-1 win over Twente in the return game of what was then a two-leg final.

Among the few men who have scored hat tricks in European finals are Real Madrid greats Ferenc Puskás and Alfredo di Stefano, more than 60 years ago.

Now on that storied list Lookman, Gasperini said, “has established himself as a matchwinner.”

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