Andre Gomes was at the height of his career in the summer of 2016. At the time, his stock was trending up and it looked like the sky was the limit for his potential as the next all-around top midfielder in Europe.
After rising up through the ranks with Benfica and a short promising two-year stint with Valencia, Gomes began to attract the interest of some of Europe’s top clubs. Following the successful 2016 Euro tournament where he recorded an assist and created eight goal-scoring chances, the interest from clubs increased and eventually chose to complete a transfer move to Barcelona for €35M+.
With a golden opportunity to cement his status as one of the best midfielders in Europe and potentially follow in the footsteps of Andres Iniesta, Gomes had everything he needed to succeed at a high level.
Instead, it has been the complete opposite for the Portuguese international. Today, Gomes’ career is trending downward after two underachieving seasons with Barcelona. To make matters even worse for Gomes, Portugal left him out of their final World Cup squad.
So this begs the question: where has it all gone so wrong for Andre Gomes?
In his first season with the club, he featured in 47 games as Luis Enrique continued to believe in his potential throughout the season. This past season, Ernesto Valverde played him in just 30 games, only 10 of which were starts, and often did not even include him in the squad list.
For starters, he has recorded three goals and four assists in 78 games in all competitions but stats do not paint the entire picture.
His playstyle over the last two seasons can be described as conservative.
The nature at which he played lacked the creativity and stylistic approach that one would expect from a Barcelona midfielder. Xavi and Andres Iniesta made a career of controlling games with their ability to create multiple goal-scoring chances per game while having the ability to dictate games on their own.
In contrast, Gomes’ slow-paced and cautious style became counterproductive to the flow of Barca’s style. He rarely had a feel to the game and often became isolated when the team had possession in the opponent’s half. His inability to make long runs on the pitch and push the ball upfield with through balls to open up defenses over time became a frustrating aspect of his play. Gomes was also prone to turnovers and losing possession in crucial moments as he struggled to combat high press tactics.
Gomes undoubtedly had all the tools and potential to succeed as a midfielder for Barca but his play was never a reflection of it. He did show glimpses of the value that he could bring with his ability to complete a high percentage of his passes and high work ethic on the pitch, but it never came on a consistent basis.
What was most notably evident over time is that he lacked confidence in his play. Whether it was the pressure mounting up or possibly his dislike to Barca’s system, he seemed discouraged with his play during games. Often when he had control of possession, he would pass back to the center-backs or to anyone in the vicinity of the space that he occupied rather than take an aggressive approach to take risks and open up play in the attacking third.
His struggles were illustrated game after game to the point where transfer rumors began to appear and become a talking point for his eventual departure.
To an extent, he deserves credit for his handling of the disappointments that the past two seasons brought to his career. Instead of issuing complaints to the coaching staff about the decrease in playing time or using the media as a ploy to direct the blame to the team, he remained mature and professional through it all. He could have even lashed out at the fans after they booed him during the home game against Atletico Madrid this past season, but he remained respectful.
At the least, what was admirable was his ability to alternate between different positions. Last season under Luis Enrique, Gomes even moved to playing as a right-back and worked to improve late in the season. It paid off when he picked up an assist in the Copa del Rey final against Alaves when Neymar scored an easy tap-in goal.
Now what is next for Gomes is very likely a transfer move. His opportunity to become a long-term starter for the club is no longer available due to the arrival of Philippe Coutinho and the board’s latest attempts to bring in a top-caliber midfielder. Even as a player coming off the bench, playing time will come sparingly. Ivan Rakitic, Denis Suarez, and Paulinho will all be fighting for playing time while the potential arrival of Arthur will make it even more difficult for Gomes.
From the club’s standpoint, they are hopeful to receive a fair return in hopes of investing the money into a probable Griezmann or top quality midfielder transfer.
As both Gomes and the board begin to look for interested teams, they will not last long in looking for a transfer deal. Over the past year, Juventus, Lazio and Tottenham all showed significant intrigue in a deal. La Liga teams such as Villarreal and Real Betis could be looming in for a possible transfer deal as well, especially since both teams are looking to improve the squad in hopes of making a serious run at the Europa League next season.
What will be best for Gomes is a team that will be patient in his development. Playing time must be among the top priorities in order to gain much needed experience. To reach the next level as a midfielder, he will need a coach that can uplift his confidence and get the very best out of his talents. Whether it will be as a traditional central midfielder or a physical box-to-box midfielder, he needs to find a position in which he would be comfortable playing in. Mauricio Pochettino or Massimiliano Allegri, two adaptable coaches that have worked well with different styles of play, would arguably be a tremendous fit for his growth as a player.
Gomes’ time with the team will be remembered as a major “what if.” At just 24, he still has plenty of time to steer his career in the right direction and play up to his full potential.