By Andy Wales.
There’s a long history of German footballers plying their trade in Italy. Once upon a time, when Italy’s Serie A was Europe’s prime league, it was a destination for established stars.
The late 1980s and early 1990s saw the likes of Lothar Mattheus, Jürgen Klinsmann, Andreas Brehme, and Andreas Möller all showcase their world-renowned talents at Italy’s top clubs.
Though that trend has changed, the case of Atalanta’s Robin Gosens is a different one. Then again, the story of Gosens is not your typical one of a German footballer on the rise.
Gosens was born and raised in Emmerich am Rhein, Germany, which sits very close to the Dutch border. Due to having a Dutch father and German mother, he holds passports for both countries.
He played youth football in Germany, but was scouted by Vitesse Arnhem and signed his first professional contract with the Eredivisie club. Ironically, he never actually played a competitive game for them and instead, cut his teeth on loan at FC Dordrecht.
He moved onto Heracles Almelo on a free transfer, where a good two-year spell saw him attract the attention of Atalanta.
The transfer was completed in June 2017, for a fee reportedly in the region of €1m. Although predominantly a left-back, his ability to play further up the pitch would prove ideally suited to his new team surroundings.
He spent much of his first season sat on the bench, as he understandably needed time to settle in. However, his opportunities grew during his second campaign, as did his influence on the pitch. His strength, running and willingness to attack made an impression.
This season he has been an undisputed first-choice member of the team, playing a key role in Atalanta’s 3-4-1-2 system. That left wing-back role perfectly combines his attacking and defensive abilities. The complex tactical overloads Atalanta look to create also demonstrate the acumen of Gosens.
Atalanta are the highest scorers in Serie A and Gosens more than plays his part in that. He’s contributed an impressive 9 goals and 8 assists from his 29 Serie A appearances this season.
As you can see in the table above, his numbers compare well with other leading attacking full-backs across Europe this season. That’s some elite company that Gosens doesn’t look out of place amongst. Atalanta’s tactical approach undoubtedly influences his higher goal return, with their players encouraged to shoot often. That should not detract from Gosens combined goal contribution being almost level with Hakimi and Alexander-Arnold.
In terms of defensive statistics, the standard measurements of blocks, tackles, interceptions and clearances can be misleading. Often, they can be more reflective of a team’s style, rather than a player’s defensive qualities. However, one defensive statistic that is interesting is Gosens having a considerably higher success rate in aerial duels than the others in the above list.
It’s little wonder, therefore, that his performances have caught the eye of international managers. Holding both Dutch and German passports makes him eligible for both national teams. Gosens admitted in a 2018 interview that he’d be open to a call up from the Netherlands, following reports that Ronald Koeman was watching him closely. However, it was Germany manager Joachim Löw who was about to call Gosens up for international duty before the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
In an interview with German football magazine Kicker, Löw revealed that Gosens was a part of his plans for the friendlies against Spain and Italy.
“We had considered inviting Robin Gosens to the international matches in March,” Löw said.
“It’s a pity that it didn’t work out for now, but we’ll keep an eye on him.”
Löw shared his admiration of Gosens’ versatility, determination and dynamism in a slot that might yet be available in the Germany team that will be targeting success in next year’s Euros.
Koeman and Löw weren’t the only managers taking note. Atalanta’s Serie A rivals Juventus and Inter Milan, as well as Premier League big spenders Chelsea have all been linked.
Price tags of €25-30m have been touted, and despite the expected financial impact of Covid-19, it seems Atalanta can make a sizable profit on Gosens should they decide to cash in.
With an international career and high-profile move potentially on the horizon, it seems Robin Gosens is a star very much on the rise.