Following the sale of Giacomo Bonaventura to Milan in summer 2014, Atalanta identified and subsequently acquired Alejandro “Papu” Gómez from Metalist Kharkiv as his replacement.
Prior to his Ukrainian adventure, Gómez had plied his trade in Sicily as a key member of Catania’s Argentine contingent for the better part of three seasons, making over 100 appearances across all competitions.
Papu arrived in Bergamo no stranger to Italy and its tactically-centric nature, but while he may have already been armed with the necessary traits to elevate his game to new heights, he would only begin to reach the peak of powers in 2016 under Gian Piero Gasperini.
Atalanta’s development of talent in one of the continent’s finest academies, as well as their shrewd transfer policy and expansive scouting network, has enabled Gasperini to create both an identity and system reliant on the sum of its parts rather than any individual star to win football matches.
Yet,due to the sale of many premier prospects and purchasing ofcost-eﬀective replacements to scale downon the wage bill, Papu’s been the one true constant-ascaptain on the pitch and an inspiration to La Dea’s faithful oﬀit.
Appearing in over 250 matches for the Bergamaschi, Gomez has slotted in all over the pitch, primarily in the attack where he has produced 59 goals and 71 assists.
Undoubtedly, a highly-productive performer, however it can be argued the 32-year old’s value is best weighed through his role in the club’s back-to-back UEFA Europa League berths, as well as their first Champions League qualification in 2018-19.
The technical quality, exuberance, colorful personality and intangible benefits have made Papu a beloved figure in Bergamo, almost to the point where he could not be imagined anywhere else. But, not all careers are destined to have their fairytale ending; even his.
In recent weeks, an internal rift between Papu and Gasperini has become public, with the diminutive playmaker admitted he could leave the club in January and Gasperini’s decision to leave him out of Atalanta’s squad for their Roma clash is the final confirmation that Gomez’s time at the Gewiss Stadium is over.
Several clubs appear keen to take advantage of Atalanta’s less- than-favorable position and add the veteran to their ranks, including Milan.
Currently sitting first in the league table, the Rossoneri have emerged as surprise Scudetto contenders this campaign, not only on the basis of their impressive play, but their strength and collective character as well.
Stefano Pioli has done well in the dugout dealing with positive covid-19 tests and injuries as a result of a condensed schedule and misfortune. The Italian could surely use every shot in the arm to ensure his Milan stay the course in order to meet their domestic and European objectives.
Milan’s main areas to reinforce in January are primarily at striker with the latest injury setback to Zlatan Ibrahimović, and in the central defence where whichever depth existed has become even thinner.
Amidst all of the discussions over his renewal, Hakan Çalhanoğlu has remained in fine form, and a fundamental piece to completing the top four puzzle this season. Brahim Díaz and Jens Petter Hauge have also injected a fresh bit of youthful life as creators in the final third, leaving Milan relatively stocked in this area.
However, despite growing in age, there is some debate about whether or not Paolo Maldini and company should make an exception on their youth- driven project to acquire Papu.
With Papu, Milan would be getting an established veteran and a gadget player who fills in a plethora of roles in Pioli’s 4-2-3-1. Whether it be playing oﬀ the main striker, out wide or as a number 10, few Serie A players have proven to be as influential in a given attacking sequence.
Factoring in the acquisition costs for his services, it can be assumed that the fee will be favorable for Milan to accommodate in January on a slimmer budget, even if Atalanta are one of the red and black’s competitors for top four.
Milan having worked so diligently to clean up their wage bill over the last few seasons, oﬄoading heavy earners and cutting ties with near useless players. At an annual €2m, Papu is Atalanta’s highest earner in 2020-21.
This is a figure that over the short-term, does not disrupt Milan’s healthier financial position or infringe on their youth transfer policy heading into another pivotal summer. According to the latest reports in Italy, Atalanta's asking price is around €15m.
Over the years, Milan have proven to be one of the more active sides in January. Notable acquisitions such as Mattia Destro and Alessio Cerci did not pan out as hoped, but then there are past cases like Antonio Cassano and Mark van Bommel who have played a key part in the chase to meet crucial seasonal goals.
Papu could perhaps have similar potential to tip the scales in favor in a title chase or top four battle - if not for Milan, then perhaps one of their domestic rivals.