When Jurgen Klopp claimed to be “just a normal Black Forest guy” we all laughed because he was doing himself a terrible disservice.
But one of the first Euro 2020 stars is a German who can really pretend to be your average Joe.
His name is Robin Gosens, the only player in Joachim Low’s 26-man squad who has never played in the Bundesliga or been produced by one of their famous academies.
His journey to elite level football is very different. After doing the German equivalent of A-Levels, Gosens was in the same situation as many 18-year-olds, wondering what to do next.
He of course had footballing abilities and in his youth he rebounded in a few clubs but that didn’t lead to much so he was playing the equivalent of Sunday league level by the time he became an adult.
Gosens briefly worked at a gas station and tried to join the police, but was turned back due to a size difference in his legs.
However, that all changed when a recruiter for Dutch team Vitesse decided to give it a shot.
He initially had no impact in the Netherlands, but an impressive loan spell at Dutch side Dordrecht saw him move to Heracles Alelmo in 2015.
Gosens continued his ascent and got his big chance when he moved to Atalanta two years later.
A big leap, considering his ‘Sunday league way of playing’, but it turned out that this style made him and Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta the perfect match.
“If you play for Gasperini, you run and you fight. Of course you also have to be a good footballer, but if you don’t give yourself 100% you’re not in the squad, ”Marcus Christenson wrote in The Guardian.
All that running, fighting and success with Atalanta got him a call-up for Germany last August, but German football expert Raphael Honigstein points to Low’s decision to try a 3-4-3 system. in November, which put Gosens on the path to Euro 2020 stardom.
Gosens gave a decent account of himself in the loss to France, but was at his best against the Portuguese in Munich.
He got a goal and an assist as his threatening cross directly led Ruben Dias to put the ball into his own net. Gosens was unlucky not to score another goal with a nice acrobatic effort but it was not awarded due to an earlier offside.
The end of the match saw him settle an old score, in a way, with Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the greats of the modern game.
In his autobiography, Dreams are Worth It, Gosens recalls: “After the game against Juventus, I tried to realize my dream of having the Ronaldo shirt.
“After the final whistle, I walked over to him, not even being made public to celebrate. But Ronaldo did not accept. I asked, “Cristiano, can I have your shirt? “
“He didn’t even look at me, he just said, ‘No!’ I was completely blushed and ashamed. I left and felt small.
“You know that moment when something embarrassing happens and you look around to see if anyone has noticed?” This is how I felt and tried to hide it.
But after hiding Ronaldo and Portugal, Gosens was not going to fall into the same trap.
Gosens said: “I didn’t ask Cristiano Ronaldo for his jersey because I want to enjoy this win and tonight.”
The performance kicked off the Germans’ attempt to become European Champions, but the emergence of Gosens also established a link between the DFB (German FA) and the fans, says German football expert Archie Rhind-Tutt.
He told talkSPORT: “Especially for Germany, a country where the national federation has really struggled to cultivate a down-to-earth image. Everything has been very corporate in the last few years.
“Robin Gosens has been a boon to them because he looks like your average guy on the streets.
“He’s really down to earth and the fact that he also has this extreme way of playing the Sunday league, the way he hits the ball… even when he’s doing slide tackles he seems to have the hook. this fisherman to retrieve the ball. “
It might look like Sunday’s league, but Gosens is proving to be extremely effective and could play again when Hungary visits Munich on Wednesday night, live on talkSPORT 2.