Real Madrid won’t have to worry about Atalanta’s best player in the Champions League

Atalanta, Papu Gomez (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Atalanta, Papu Gomez (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images) /

Real Madrid will face a tricky opponent in the Champions League Round of 16, but Atalanta will be without a key player in both legs.

Although Papu Gomez has been central to Atalanta’s recent success as a perennial Champions League side, the acclaimed playmaker and his great manager Gian Pero Gasperini have had a very public falling out.

Gomez is now an outcast, and he was excluded in the club’s most recent Serie A match against another Champions League contender in AS Roma. Per noted football insider Fabrizio Romano, Gasperini’s decision confirms that Atalanta will sell the Argentine attacking midfielder in January.

It’s tough news for fans of Atalanta, but it’s excellent news for Madridistas. Real Madrid will face Atalanta in the Champions League Round of 16, looking to avoid a third straight letdown in the knockout stages of the competition, having already survived a scare in the group stages after two awful losses to Shakhtar Donetsk.

Atalanta are one of the most exciting attacking teams in Europe. They have other great players outside of Gomez, such as striker Duvan Zapata and left midfielder Robin Gosens. But Gomez has the technical quality, passing, slick dribbling, and shooting range that makes him come closer than anyone on the team to that world-class bracket. He’s been one of Serie A’s top players over the last few years.

This season, Gomez has four goals and two assists in Serie A as their most productive player alongside super-sub Luis Muriel. Per, Gomez has 1.9 key passes per game, 1.9 fouls drawn per game, and 1.5 dribbles completed per game. He’s been excellent, as ever.

Where will Gomez end up? That’s anyone’s guess, but he could end up on a Champions League rival for Real Madrid, such as Juventus. That would be quite the story if he ended up helping a Serie A rival make a run in the Champions League.

But in the immediate term, Real Madrid will benefit greatly from Gomez’s departure and this puzzling breakdown in the relationship between Gasperini and his star man. Gomez could have caused so many headaches for Real in transition with his passing, vision, creativity, and longshots.

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Now, though, it looks like Real can simply focus on dealing with Zapata’s hold-up play, Ruslan Malinovsky’s shooting range, and the wide attacking of Gosens and Hans Hateboer. Well, it won’t be simple for Zinedine Zidane and his men, but the task will be much easier with Atalanta’s top star out of the way.