June 4, 2020 / 10:46 PM / a month ago

Atalanta coach says controversy over Valencia trip 'offensive'

(Reuters) - Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini has sought to clarify comments he made that suggested he had been suffering from novel coronavirus symptoms before and during the Italian team’s Champions League last-16 second leg at Valencia.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Champions League - Round of 16 First Leg - Atalanta v Valencia - San Siro, Milan, Italy - February 19, 2020 Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini reacts REUTERS/Daniele Mascolo/File Photo

He said the controversy surrounding his behaviour, which prompted a statement from the Spanish club criticising him for taking charge of his team for the match, was “offensive”.

Valencia said they were “surprised” by Gasperini’s admission in Sunday’s interview with Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport that he had the symptoms before the game but did not tell anyone, with the Spanish club adding he had “put numerous people at risk”.

Gasperini confirmed in the interview that he had since tested positive for COVID-19 from an antibodies test.

Atalanta hail from Bergamo in northern Italy, which was the epicentre of the new coronavirus in Europe when Gasperini’s side beat Valencia 4-3 on March 10 for an 8-4 aggregate victory.

The game at Valencia’s Mestalla stadium was played without spectators in order to prevent further spread of the virus.

“It is a very offensive controversy,” Gasperini told television network Sky Italia on Thursday.

“I know I respected the protocols, I was in quarantine like everyone else. I did not do a swab test but in May when we did serological tests I discovered that I had contracted the virus.

“I had aches and pains, but I never had a fever or lung problems of any kind. When I left Bergamo I was fine, I had some problems in the evening and the next day. But the controversy is offensive and ugly.”

The Spanish top-flight season is set to start up again on June 11 after being halted for three months due to the pandemic while Italy’s Serie A is due to resume on June 20.

Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Ken Ferris

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