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Thursday, July 18, 2024

One That Got Away: Angel Gomes – a remarkable talent as a youth player but he has not developed at the same level

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In June of 2020, Manchester United announced the release of academy player Angel Gomes, after failing to reach an agreement over a new contract for the young player, stating ‘Angel Gomes has not taken up the offer of a new contract and has therefore left the club’. The wording of this official statement makes it seem as though the club tried everything in their power to keep the midfielder Old Trafford. 

However, when Sky Sports reported on the release, they stated that ‘the numbers just didn’t add up for the 19 year old and his advisors’, hinting that the offer on the table for Gomes was an underwhelming one, perhaps in terms of promised game time or in terms of wage, either way, Gomes rejected the offer, and his long spell at the club came to an abrupt end. 

Gomes signed for French team Lille, signing a five year contract, before being loaned to Portuguese club Boavista, as reported by The Guardian. This loan spell in Liga Nos has proven to be vital as Angel Gomes gained something he had been lacking for him at United, game time in a tough league. 

At Boavista, Gomes played 2,674 minutes across all competitions, scoring six goals and assisting a further six in that time. For a first ever full season, these are very solid numbers. Manchester Evening News stated that the Portuguese club was the ‘perfect breeding ground for success’ for Gomes due to his already speaking the language and Portuguese heritage. 

In an interview halfway through his loan spell, with The Independent, Gomes stated that ‘it’s been quite refreshing’, showing that this move, although hard, was the right one for him. 

The instant success Gomes found in Portugal, does lead to questions about whether his footballing development could have carried on at United, had he been given the opportunities. However, the main position Gomes played on loan was central attacking midfielder, where he played 18 games in total, this is an issue as this is a particularly strong position for United. 

Bruno Fernandes plays in the attacking midfield role for United, and he was signed six months before Gomes was released, in that time Fernandes had already cemented himself as a starter for Manchester United, making himself un-droppable. 

This was further proven in the 2020/21 season when Jesse Lingard had to go on loan to West Ham to gain playing time in his favoured attacking midfield position. If a then 28-year-old had to be loaned to gain playing time, there was not much hope for 19-year-old Gomes to push Fernandes off the top spot. 

This further suggests that Gomes made the correct decision by leaving, but maybe also that it was not due to a lack of talent but purely poor timing, as Gomes was reaching the age of going into the first team just as United were actively strengthening his favoured position. 

Gomes did have something but in terms of unseating the likes of Bruno Fernandes in his favoured positions, was unlikely. Him being a squad player would have stunted his development and it would have been something of a regret for him to stay at United – not every young talent will succeed.

However unlucky the timing may be, it does not deter from the fact that Gomes was a highly thought of prospect at the club, as was proven when he made his debut at 16, becoming the youngest player to make their debut for the club since Duncan Edwards, as reported by Sky Sports. 

During the 2021/22 season, Gomes’ first at Lille, he made 30 appearances, scoring three goals and two assists – which was alright as he was finding his feet in a new league. Lille won the Trophée des Champions at the start of that season, beating Paris Saint-Germain 1-0.

During the 2022/23 season, Gomes was expected to raise his game in the league and he made 39 appearances, scoring three goals and six assists. It does not suggest that he is going to thrive as much as people imagined based on the stats of his first two full seasons at the French club.

That does not indicate that the player does not have talent, but it shows that he may not have truly succeeded at United – therefore could have struggled and been labelled as a flop – it’s what the English media does to young players, especially ones from Manchester United.

Last season, 2023/24, Gomes made 45 appearances for Lille, scoring two goals and assisting ten more. His numbers have been consistent and his assists have grown, which is good, but looking back at the suggestions that he was going to be magnificent – it does not look good now.

Gomes has made it as a professional footballer – which is what he dreamed of doing. But supporters of the club seeing what he did at academy level seem to have got carried away and turned him into this major star projecting him to the level of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo – which was praise of his talent but so wide of the mark.

Written by Paul


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