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El Papu, Bergamo’s Cult Hero.

January 18, 2018

Since Arriving Bergamo in the summer of 2014, Atalanta Captain Alejandro Gomez has done More Than Just Transform the Fortunes of a Struggling Club

He’s not your regular trophy-winning captain, neither does he boast an inspirational grass to grace soccer timeline, but the extraordinary personality of ‘Papu’ has endeared him to the Italian City of Bergamo… How?

In 2016/17, with 16 goals and 10 assists, the Argentine playmaker led ‘La Dea’ to a historical fourth-place finish on the Serie-A log, ending the campaign on 72 points, their best points tally in Italian top flight

2017/18 hasn’t been any less impressive, Papu Gomez and Atalanta had to wrestle Everton and Lyon for a Europa League Last-32 ticket, of course, they didn’t just wrestle, they dominated and won their group, much to the despair of the Premier league side who failed to make it to the knock-out phase

Papu is no doubt a an idol in Bergamo; the contagious positive energy oozing from the little maestro is responsible for the incredible transformation going on at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia. Papu isn’t part of what makes the clock tick in Bergamo, he is Bergamo.

Now, here’s a few interesting things on Atalanta’s sensational leader

Catania and The Curse of Papu

Alejandro Gomez was but a boy when Catania signed him up from San Lorenzo for a meager €3 million, an absolute steal, given his contributions to the Club in his three-year spell at the Stadio Angelo Massimino

The highlight of Papu’s love story with the Rossazzurri remains the 2012/13 campaign, when his playmaking and offensive genius propelled the club to a record 8th place finish in the Serie-A, their best-placement in Italian top flight since 1964/65

With 8 goals and 7 assists in 36 appearances that season, Gomez, alongside the sensational Gonzalo Bergessio,  orchestrated and engineered what remains Catania’s best season till date

Although Rossazzurri supporters couldn’t imagine a Papu-less Catania in the near future, the powers that be at Stadio Angelo Massimino had other ideas; ideas that sent the Sicily based club straight into the 8th level of Bonacelli’s map of hell

The 2013 summer Transfer window came and left, and so did Alejandro Gomez, who was sold to little known Ukrainian Premier League side, Metalist Kharkiv.

Well, all good things come to an end, but when we try to force the hands of time, the consequences can be very grim.

The season after Papu’s exit was a nightmare for Catania, the club became a shadow of it’s recent self, as it’s performances declined drastically, earning them an 18th place finish that all but cemented their relegation from the Serie-A

Calcio Catania are currently languishing in the third-tier of Italian football.

Why he Left Ukraine

Alejandro Papu Gómez

Papu joined Atalanta from Metalist Kharkev in 2014

If the political climate in Ukraine four years ago wasn’t so volatile and tense, the Argentine would probably still be offering his services to Metalist Kharkiv, with whom he had a four-year deal that was to end in 2017

However, with the political violence and increasing uprising that eventually led to a referendum and the annexation of Crimea, the Ukrainian Premier League experienced a mass exodus of foreign players who feared for their safety

In the 2014/15 campaign, the 29-year-old refused to return to Ukraine, citing the aforementioned as the reasons behind his not so conventional decision

‘It’s an anguished situation, very unstable, as we are all sad and living in a state of panic…I have no intention of coming back…I will stay in Buenos Aires…Until there can be guarantees of safety, I cannot expose my family to these dangers’ Gomez said in the summer of 2014

He Could Have Helped Italy Qualify For the World Cup

Yes, Papu plays for the Argentina National football team, but he’s multi-lingual, and shares a dual citizenship between two football powerhouses; Argentina and Italy.

Alejandro Gomez’s international debut for La Albiceleste only came in May 2017, in a 6-0 thumping of Singapore, and although the diminutive forward signed in with a goal and an assist for Federico Fazio, It is Italy who did have need for some of that offensive prowess in their disappointing quest for World Cup qualification

The 29-year-old had expressed his desire to play for the Azzurri, but was ruled ineligible by FIFA who claimed he didn’t yet have an Italian passport when he represented Argentina at the Under-20 World Cup in Canada, a tournament the Argentinians won.

Football’s governing body also cited his lack of Italian lineage as a barrier, making it impossible for ‘El Papu’ to switch allegiances across football nationalities.

If only Gian Paolo Ventura had the services of Alejandro Gomez available on that heart-breaking night in San Siro, perhaps, Gianluigi Buffon and Italy could have had better fortunes against the Swedes.

Dance Like Papu

He may not be very good at multi-tasking, but ‘El Papu’s swaying hips and captivating dance-moves have no doubt put him up there as perhaps the most entertaining baller in Italian top-flight football today

No kidding guys, the energetic Atalanta leader has a popular song ‘Dance like Papu’ dedicated to his trademark goal celebration. The video has amassed over 32million views on YouTube, the Papu effect is real, he’s no virus, but once he’s involved, it goes viral.

The song, a collaboration between DJ Matrix, comedy troupe Gli Autogol, and Papu himself, received recognition from the Italian Music Industry after the single sold 10,000 copies in the first few weeks of its release.

For his contribution to the success of the single, Alejandro Gomez received the ‘Disco D’Oro’, a gold disk which hangs in his apartment.

He may never win the Ballon d’Or, but he’s got a gold record; a rare feat, given the nature of his trade.

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