A love affair with Atalanta, Papu Gomez and its supporters looks set for a damning end. The rumours emanating from Italy suggest a pretty severe disagreement following the Champions League fixture with FC Midtjylland, which saw him substituted at half-time.
Gian Piero Gasperini told reporters after the game that he ‘wasn’t satisfied with his performance’ after replacing Gomez with Josip Ilicic against the Danish outfit. La Gazzetta dello Sport reported that Gomez rubbished Gasperini’s instructions in Denmark. Gasperini asked Gomez to keep operating on the right flank, but instead, he hastily replied ‘no,’ and failed to appear for the second half after the break.
Gianluca Di Marzio, an Italian journalist with his finger on the pulse in terms of European transfers, believes Papu Gomez will leave Atalanta next month with the relationship between player and manager is improving:
“According to what is filtering through, the waters between Papu, Gasperini, and the club, seem to have calmed down. So much so that they will try, although it will be difficult, to mend the rift.
“At the moment, however, the most plausible scenario leads to a farewell of the Papu, although it will be necessary to understand what kind of market the Nerazzurri number 10 can have.
“If Atalanta continues to value him at between €8-12 million, it is difficult to think of a future in Serie A, also because Papu, expiring in 2022, earns €3 million per season. In this case, therefore, it is easier to think of a possible farewell with foreign direction.”
NEXT STEPS FOR PAPU GOMEZ?
At 32-years-old and now with a want to vacate Bergamo, it is no wonder why there is such a small fee attached to Papu’s potential move. Roughly €10 million will get you a creative, diminutive playmaker, who has matured into an exceptional player in Serie A.
Performing at the peak of his powers in his thirties, Gomez could be a shrewd investment for any side in Europe. The Argentine’s showings in the Champions League highlight what standard he can offer, and why many football clubs should be angling for his services. Gomez would be a welcome addition to Anfield, Zidane’s Real Madrid, and Barcelona, to name just three European Powerhouses – he is still that good.
Realistically, prospective clubs will view Gomez as a player arriving in his twilight years with a maximum of three years left at his current standard. At €3 million annually over a two or three-year contract, the pros outweigh the cons in terms of finances.
The relationship between Gomez and the beloved fans in Bergamo may usher him away from Italy, and Europe altogether. MLS is touted as a potential destination for Atalanta’s number 10. Could soccer in America be only weeks away from welcoming one of, if not the most, significant import the league has yet witnessed?
Dubbed a retirement home for Europe’s elite, the age bracket which Gomez falls into would sure up such a tag. However, the capabilities he would arrive with would far outshine former imports from Europe, including Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo in New York. David Beckham’s Inter Miami appears as an attractive option, with the chance to team up with compatriot Gonzalo Higuain and provide the newly formed franchise with the tools needed to lay siege on MLS.
Despite strong links due to the affection of Inter Milan’s hierarchy, there is no real frontrunner for Gomez’s signature. There’s seemingly no clamour from Europe’s elite, and there has certainly been nothing concrete from clubs overseas. The suspected destination for the number 10 is a plucky Champions League side, or an outfit in the Europa League looking to win the competition.
The Argentine’s future should become more transparent in January once the transfer market opens, although fans in Bergamo will be praying for the opposite.
Looking at the graphic below, Papu was head and shoulders above most in Italy’s top tier during the 2019/20 campaign. He ranked in the top percentile for assists, highlighting his creativity in the final third. The statistics are helped by Illicic’s prolific season in front of goal. However, that is to take nothing away from the level of performances on show from Gomez.
A larger than life character off the pitch, and a personality worthy of captaining a Champions League team on it, Papu Gomez’s best qualities lay in his offensive output. Gomez is elusive and hard to contain. He plays his best football and is most effective between opposing defences and the midfield line. Here, he can link play between his central midfielders and the attacking threats donning the Atalanta jersey.
His head-turning amount of progressive carries shows his ability to drag his side’s possession up the field to more penetrative areas. Once in an imposing area of the pitch, Gomez comes alive. Always looking ahead of him for penetrative runs or the opportunity to thread a through ball to a teammate, Gomez’s ‘passes into the penalty area’ total suggests as such.
Gomez is absolutely key to Atalanta’s attack, and without him, it will likely crumble. There is no one who can step into his shoes and offer such numbers for the Bergamo side.
Two footed with bags of ability, coupled with a burning desire to win and leadership qualities in abundance – Papu Gomez will be difficult to replace.
Words and Graphics by @SamIngram_