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Why has it gone all so wrong for Aston Villa goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini on loan at Serie A outfit Atalanta?

There was so much expected from the 23-year-old Italian goalkeeper, but ultimately, he has failed to deliver since his 18-month loan deal to Atalanta was confirmed.

Gollini has spent this season on loan at the Serie A outfit from Aston Villa, but has seen his game time limited. The goalkeeper has made just a mere six appearances, and although he has kept three clean sheets, he has been kept out by Atalanta’s number one goalkeeper, Ertit Berisha – who played 39 times this season for the Lombardy-based outfit.

So, was it a mistake for him to join Aston Villa?

Not necessarily. At the time, he was a highly-rated goalkeeper, who had impressed enough at previous club Hellas Verona for the Villans to decide to purchase him.

He was originally signed by Roberto Di Matteo and had all the potential to become a massive success for Steve Bruce’s side, but ultimately, in-spite of making 20 appearances and starting out as Villa’s first-choice goalkeeper, he was sent out on loan to Atalanta in January 2017.

You could make the argument that he was frozen out, though. As soon as Manchester United loanee Sam Johnstone joined Bruce at Villa Park, it seemed like a perfect match, the Englishman rapidly becoming a key part of Aston Villa’s success, particularly this season and that has meant there has been little chance for Gollini to be recalled from Atalanta.

25-year-old Johnstone has been influential this season and he will look to help Villa return to the promised land of the Premier League when they face-off against Fulham in the play-off final at Wembley on the 26th of May.

Did Johnstone’s introduction stifle Gollini’s confidence, then?

It is almost a certainty that Gollini’s confidence had been dashed by some of the unbelievable performances of Johnstone, who has been in phenomenal form since his move to Villa Park.

Although, after moving to Atalanta on loan, Gollini spoke out about his struggles at Aston Villa, “The condition I had set my agent for me to stay in Birmingham was to have an Italian goalkeeping coach. That was the situation, with Massimo Battara, until the manager Roberto Di Matteo was fired. I played a great deal at Villa, but I wasn’t happy with the training regime.”

Goalkeeping coach Massimo Battara has also worked with Roberto Mancini at Fiorentina, Inter, and Manchester City and is now set to join the Italian National Team staff.

It is understandable for an Italian youngster to want a goalkeeping coach he can easily relate to and get along with easily. After Di Matteo’s sacking, Gollini surely felt a bit isolated at the club without any Italian compatriots.

When he joined La Dea, there was absolutely no doubt he would have expected to play more first-team games than he has done at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia, but it just has not quite happened for the former Hellas Verona star.

He has definitely got bags of talent; make absolutely no mistake about that. But his confidence is rocked at the moment – and his best bet now would be to move elsewhere where he will be appreciated, and receive game time, week in, week out.

He was a massive hit in Italy before, so a return to Verona could well be an option for the Italian, who has endured a frustrating few seasons in the Championship and Serie A – he made 29 appearances over a two-year period for Hellas Verona between 2014 and 2016.

However, he would then almost feel like a wasted talent, going back to the club where he was first deemed as a ‘huge star’. His potential remains enormous and there is no doubt that he could potentially end up moving to a bigger club, as well as securing regular starts, which could also aid his chances of getting an international call-up for Italy.

Although Gollini has only ever played for the under-21 side, it is definitely an ambition, which he should bear in mind, because before Villa secured his services, there were numerous top clubs who were reportedly interested in signing the gifted goalkeeper.

Gollini has not got the most glamorous of CV’s, but there are definitely clubs who will be assessing his profile this summer. He definitely needs to re-start his career elsewhere, because it just has not worked out for him in England.

Villa loaned him out in the hope it would further enhance his playing time and improve his overall attributes, but he just has not had a fair crack at doing that and it can be a lonely place for a goalkeeper when you are not receiving regular playing time, especially for Gollini, who is still at the tender age of just 23 years. The psychological impact of this campaign is something that Villa should be weary of – only Gollini knows how long-term an effect these recent events will have on future performances.

So, where should his next destination be?

Staying in Italy may just be his best option. He may not be as young and fresh, and craving to prove himself like he was when he first joined Aston Villa, but the expectations would be lower if he were to remain in his home-country and it may help the former Italy Under-21 goalkeeper revitalise his career.

If you look at his record when he is in goal, he does make a difference. Gollini has shown that at Atalanta in his few appearances this season, that he does have the capacity to produce first-rate saves with his brilliant shot-stopping ability, which he showcased in the first few months of his career at Villa.

In January 2017 he told ANSA, “I returned to Italy with the intention of staying and continuing my career here.”

There would be nothing better than a new move to a team who will help breed him and make Gollini their first-choice goalkeeper because he definitely has the ability to become a success story.

Any club will surely welcome that. The goalkeeper does seem to struggle commanding his penalty box though, but this is certainly an amendable weakness, as he looks to rebuild his career after a frustrating time at Atalanta, where he has spent 18 torrid months. It is just a relief for the youngster that his time at the club is slowly coming to an end as he looks to rejuvenate a career that seemed to start so brightly.

J.S.

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