The Ukrainian and Russian players have forged a powerful relationship at their club

Ukrainian midfielder Ruslan Malinovskyi and Russian midfielder Aleksey Miranchuk have formed a “beautiful friendship” as team-mates at Atalanta despite the ongoing military conflict between their countries, according to full-back Davide Zappacosta.

Both players have been proponents of peace following the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine.

On Thursday, they played in a 3-2 Europa League victory over Bayer Leverkusen, with Malinovskyi scoring the opening goal and celebrating with a point to the sky dedicated to war victims.

“At this moment the situation is not easy for anyone, we could not imagine it would come to this,” said Zappacosta to Sky Sport Italia. “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.”

Manager Giampiero Gasperini added: “It is touching what [Malinovskyi] does, what he lives through, what he is doing with his wife and the whole team. We spend a lot of time watching whats going on, the whole club is affected. For me personally this has shaken me more than Covid which was very bad in Bergamo.

“He has relatives, he has friends in Ukraine, but we are also close to Miranchuk. Their very good friendship is extraordinary, Miranchuk is almost embarrassed by this situation and he also deserves respect because people matter more than the flags they represent.”

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