Prior to arriving in Bergamo in 2014, Alejandro Gomez spent several successful years in Sicily with Catania, who employed plenty of Argentine internationals to form one of the top flight’s most unique and exciting sides.
After leaving southern Italy for a cup of coffee in Ukraine with Metalist Kharkiv for the 2013-14 season, the diminutive attacker couldn’t resist the urge to make a return to old stomping grounds in Italy, this time settling in Bergamo to play for Atalanta.
Since the day he set foot at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia, Gomez has gradually become a figurehead for the club, supporters and the city of Bergamo, who absolutely adore their current captain – on the pitch and off.
Early on in his career at Atalanta, ‘El Papu’ played a bit of a backseat role, contributing with an occasional goal or assist for a side either struggling to stay afloat in the first division, or lingering around in the bottom half of the table. Yet, that would all change through not only producing on the pitch, but also being the energetic leader ‘the Goddess’ needed to escape obscurity and strive for something bigger than himself.
Last season, Atalanta enjoyed their most successful season ever, against all football betting tips odds, finishing an impressive fourth in the table with 72 points. Led by manager Gian Piero Gasperini, a youth movement including Franck Kessie, Andrea Conti, Mattia Caldara and Roberto Gagliardini took Serie A by storm, forming one of the most likeable and respected sides in the Peninsula.
But, like with most young squads, a glue is essentially to keep it all together and encourage the youth to remain humble, yet hungry. That glue was captain Papu Gomez, who carried ‘La Dea’ on his little shoulders to their first European competition in nearly 30 years, scoring 16 goals and supplying 10 assists.
Not only did the 29-year old deliver on the pitch with awe-inspiring numbers, he turned skeptics into believers, kept a loose atmosphere and allowed for his teammates to play freely and with the utmost confidence.
Besides his performance on the pitch, Gomez became Bergamo’s most beloved personality. A cult hero of sorts, dancing around, wearing unconventional armbands each week, and romanticizing about the game in the same manner many children his size grow up doing with a ball at their feet.
As we all know, football is unlike any other sport. The individuals are seen in a very different light than any other professional athlete, for the bonds they form with supporters and the city cannot be undermined.
Papu has energized an entire region beyond his now viral dance and goalscoring boots. His dedication to stay at the club and his presence alone has brought belief that whomever Atalanta face, they have a legit shot of beating that day – especially in this year’s Europa League, where they impressively topped a group with Everton and Lyon.
It takes a very special individual and personality to become a symbolic figure at a club in Italy, especially if that individual has neither grown through the academy ranks nor helped lift a trophy. But Papu Gomez is one of those rare breeds doing it many ways you cannot help but love, appreciate and admire.