A football star in the making, Atalanta's Robin Gosens has been voted as German Football Ambassador 2020. The 25-year-old had been on the cusp of his international debut when the coronavirus hit.
The rise of Robin Gosens continues. The 25-year-old, who plays for Serie A side Atalanta, has been named German Football Ambassador 2020 following an online public vote.
The powerful, marauding left-back who can also play further forward, saw off competition from Germany international Dzsenifer Marozsan (Olympique Lyon) and World Cup winner Toni Kroos of Real Madrid to claim the award which aims to honor German coaches and players who contribute to the positive image of German football.
"I'm tremendously happy about this award and see it as a confirmation of the development I've taken, especially this season," said Gosens. "To beat out such renowned colleagues, it may mean that some people find me personable and appreciate how I present myself as a person and what I achieve on the pitch. That's why I see the award as motivation to continue on the same path."
On the cusp of a Germany call-up
Gosens has been a key figure in Atalanta's rise to prominence and status as the top scorers in Italy's top flight with a remarkable 70 goals in 25 domestic games. Gosens notched eight goals and five assists this season, establishing himself as one of the first names on the team sheet.
His form piqued the interest of Germany coach Joachim Löw, who had traveled to Northern Italy on more than one occasion to assess whether he might be the answer to Germany's left-sided problem.
Löw told German football magazine Kicker that Gosens was in his thoughts for the March friendlies in Madrid against Spain, and against Italy in Nuremberg before the coronavirus forced their cancelation.
"We had considered inviting Robin Gosens to the international matches in March," Löw said. "We would have loved to meet him in person. It's a pity that it didn't work out for now, but we'll keep an eye on him as soon as the ball starts rolling again."
The Germany boss described Gosens as "a versatile player whose dynamism, enthusiasm and determination are impressive." This was news to Gosens, who said he only found out about Löw's admiration for him from afar.
"That was big news. I have to say that I heard it from the media like everyone else," he told NTV in an interview. "It was also finally positive news right at the time when everything here was blowing up a bit."
Gosens was widely expected to be called up for his first Germany caps in the March friendlies in Madrid against Spain, and against Italy in Nuremberg. Then the coronavirus struck.
Atalanta celebrate their big 4-1 over Valencia, but the game has since been described as a 'biological bomb'
From fairytale to corona epicenter
Atalanta, to the surprise of many, have enjoyed a couple of fine seasons. The Italian side qualifyed for the Champions League for the first time in their history, and then progressing through their group ahead of Shakhtar Donetsk despite losing their first three games. A convincing 8-4 aggregate win over Valencia had then set up an unprecedented Champions League quarterfinal. Atalanta had just gatecrashed the final eight of Europe's elite club competition, becoming the European football story of the year.
Atalanta were also able to handle the dual demands of their first foray into the Champions League with the weekly rigors of Serie A. Gosens and his team were fourth, ahead of the likes of Roma and AC Milan, when the football stopped.
It later became apparent that the spread of the coronavirus in Spain and northern Italy was accelerated by Atalanta's game against Valencia on February 19, a fixture played at the higher capacity San Siro in Milan, rather than Atalanta's smaller home stadium in Bergamo, also in the hardest-hit region of Lombardy.
The game, a huge moment in the club's history, was subsequently dubbed "Game Zero" by the Italian press.
The days after the game saw the numbers of coronavirus cases sky-rocket, and the decision to play that game, in that stadium, at a time when the virus was spreading, started to be questioned.
The return leg went ahead on March 10 without fans in Valencia. Soon after, a third of Valencia's players and staff tested positive as well as Atalanta's goalkeeper Marco Sportiello.
While some restrictions are slowly being loosened in Italy, the prospect of a return to domestic football in Serie A – even behind closed doors – remains in limbo with June 12 the earliest date given by government officials for clubs to potentially restart training.
Gosens' rise put on hold
From a football perspective, it's been an unfortunate chain of events for Gosens, who was just starting to gain recognition in Germany and reportedly attracting interest from other big European clubs.
Gosens' rise to football prominence is on hold. Rather than the football team being a story of celebration for Atalanta, the 1.1 million population city of Bergamo is instead fighting to overcome the coronavirus.
The 25-year-old, born on the border with the Netherlands to a Dutch father and German mother, is a product of Vitesse Arnhem's academy. Up until this season he had remained a relatively unknown quantity in his homeland, having never played any level of football in Germany. Gosens stock is clearly on the rise and, having been voted by fans as the German Football Ambassador 2020, appears to be on his way to becoming a household name in Germany too.