Teun Koopmeiners: Atalanta’s Versatile Cog in Midfield

At 26 years of age, Teun Koopmeiners has established himself as one of the Netherlands’ finest central midfielders and a vital cog in Gian Piero Gasperini’s system at Atalanta. His breakout campaign came in 2019/20, operating alongside fellow academy graduates like Myron Boadu, Calvin Stengs, and Owen Wijndal and excelling in the center of the pitch for Arne Slot’s AZ Alkmaar.



Just two days after turning 22, Koopmeiners played a 70-meter pass to set up Oussama Idrissi’s second goal in a 2-0 victory vs. Ajax, with AZ going level on points with league leaders Ajax. One week later, he scored a brace in a 4-0 victory against ADO Den Haag. And yet, as AZ were challenging for their first league title in 11 year, the COVID-19 pandemic brought European football to a pause and prompted the Eredivisie to abandon the campaign with eight matches left.


Koopmeiners would end the season with 16 goals and 3 assists in 42 appearances across all competitions, but as for AZ, they ended the campaign level on 56 points with Ajax, albeit behind the Amsterdammers on goal differential. Whilst Ajax booked their ticket for the UEFA Champions League group stage, AZ headed to the second qualifying round. Koopmeiners would score in their 3-1 win against Viktoria Plzeň, but he was unable to add to his tally as AZ fell to a 2-0 loss to Dynamo Kyiv in the third qualifying round.


He continued to wear the captain’s armband for AZ and lead by example, racking up 17 goals and 7 assists and impressing in a defensive midfield role, a central midfield role, and a center back role. Despite selling Idrissi in the summer to Sevilla for €12 million, and despite sacking Slot in December after rumors emerged of him negotiating for the Feyenoord manager position, AZ managed a third-place finish in 2020/21 and qualified for the UEFA Europa League playoffs.


The summer of 2021 would see various starters depart the AFAS Stadion, with Boadu joining Monaco for €17 million whilst Stengs went to the other side of the French Riviera and joined Nice for €15 million. Starting goalkeeper Marco Bizot made the move to Brest for €5 million, whilst his compatriot Koopmeiners headed to Atalanta for €14 million.


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Despite facing tough competition from the likes of Remo Freuler, Marten de Roon, Ruslan Malinovskyi and Mario Pašalić, Koopmeiners quickly became a starter under Gasperini and thrived in a variety of midfield positions, registering 4 goals and 1 assist in his maiden Serie A campaign before racking up 10 goals and 4 assists in 2022/23.


It was enough to convince Louis van Gaal, who called him up for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Koopmeiners played in all five of the Netherlands’ matches and even assisted Wout Weghorst’s goal in the 11th minute of injury time to force an additional half-hour. The match would go to penalties, with Argentina narrowly prevailing and booking their spot in the World Cup semifinals.


Koopmeiners has been a valuable asset for club and country in recent years, and his versatility and well-rounded skill set have made him one of the finest players in his position in Italian football. He is constantly contributing to his team’s attacking play with a knack for popping up around the box, testing the goalkeeper and creating goal-scoring opportunities for teammates, whilst his defensive fortitude has enabled him to thrive in a deeper role as well.


One of his most prominent attributes is his reading of the game. Whilst his passing ability isn’t the most eye-catching, it’s his ability to scan the opposition’s lines and pick the right option in possession that makes him a formidable unit in Atalanta’s aggressive, free-flowing setup.


Koopmeiners’ statistics in Serie A this season [Sofascore]



His game reading is also evidenced in his pressing as well, preferring to scan the space and the opposing player’s body orientation before engaging in duels, racking up 4.6 ball recoveries per game this season. His ball striking and shooting technique also make him a multi-faceted threat, capable of testing the goalkeeper from long range. It’s little surprise that his goals scored (11) vastly outpaces his expected goals (5.31), and it’s also no coincidence that he ranks in the top 1% for midfielders in Europe’s top 5 leagues when it comes to goals per game.


Overall, the Dutchman is a quick thinker and an efficient midfield player in all thirds of the pitch, applying his technique and physicality in right moments and in the right places relative to game states. Under Gasperini, Koopmeiners has adapted to various midfield roles thanks to his impressive reading of the game and his positional awareness as well as his top-notch physical condition.


Often saddled with the responsibility of shuttling from box to box, Koopmeiners has the engine and dribbling prowess to carry the ball from deep positions or central areas or even on the flanks. His physical strength and technical brilliance makes him a difficult player to press, and it’s why Gasperini entrusts him with advancing the ball from the first phase of build-up into the second or third phase.



Koopmeiners’ pristine reading of the game also affects his positional awareness as he will move laterally or vertically depending on what the game demands. He isn’t just capable of adapting to different roles or positions, but also adapting to the actions of the opposition. He’s a player who can be trusted within various tactical structures or game modules and who is an essential cog in the team’s play on and off the ball.


In possession, Koopmeiners is encouraged to be front-footed and forward-facing in his orientation on the ball, and whilst he isn’t a high-volume passer, he is still capable of progressing the ball with his ball-carrying prowess or by using vertical or diagonal balls to find space in behind the opposition lines.


When he drifts into wider spaces, Koopmeiners can be an efficient crosser — especially on the left. He can often be found occupying all sorts of positions across the match due to Atalanta’s fluid style of play, and he isn’t confined to one predetermined area of influence on the pitch. He has operated as a mezzala, a central midfielder who has the freedom to drift out wide and thread the needle with an inch-perfect pass.


Koopmeiners’ UEFA Europa League hat map [Sofascore]


Whilst he is a technically proficient midfielder, Koopmeiners is also a physically imposing player who is an efficient and aggressive presser, with the engine to cover every blade of grass but also choose the right moment to pounce. When Atalanta are on the ball, he’ll often be looking to make off-the-ball runs into pockets of space to provide a quick combination. He is a tenacious player on and off the ball who is capable of filling in as a box-to-box midfielder, a wide midfielder or even as a left-sided wing-back in a back three, such is his adaptability.


His left foot is also a rarity and opens up different passing angles for his teammates, with his weaker right foot is still capable of producing decent actions when necessary. He is capable of threatening the goalkeeper from distance, a sharpshooter from outside the box whose shooting prowess is often a game-changer against low blocks.


Photo: FBRef


It has been a stellar season for Koopmeiners at Atalanta, who sit sixth in the Serie A table and who are through to a European semifinal for the second time in club history. After topping their group with four wins and two draws, Atalanta faced off against Sporting for the second time this season and narrowly prevailed with a 3-2 aggregate victory, equalizing immediately after the break via Ademola Lookman and taking the lead at the hour-mark via Gianluca Scamacca.


They didn’t leave it to chance in the following match, with Scamacca scoring a brace and Mario Pašalić adding another in the 83rd minute to secure an epic 3-0 victory at Anfield. A comeback looked on the cards for Liverpool after Mohamed Salah scored a penalty in the seventh minute, but instead, Atalanta kept things tight and sent the Reds packing in their final European match under Jurgen Klopp.


La Dea are headed back to a European semifinal for the first time since 1988, and they will be taking on Olympique de Marseille as they look to reach a first-ever continental final in what could very well be the last hurrah for Koopmeiners at Atalanta. Despite having a contract until 2027, the Dutchman has found himself linked with a wide range of clubs including Juventus and Manchester United.



Gasperini could not resist having a dig at his rumored suitors, stating: “Koopmeiners is playing really well, we are playing in three competitions. There are other clubs who aren’t involved in other competitions that have less going on therefore it fuels these rumors.”


At 26 years of age, it seems a matter of when, not if, Teun Koopmeiners follows in the footsteps of Rasmus Højlund, Franck Kessié, Gianluca Mancini, Robin Gosens and Cristian Romero and becomes the latest player to trade Bergamo for one of the biggest clubs in Europe. Before that, however, he’ll be looking to lead Atalanta to the final in Dublin as he seeks to win the first trophy of his professional career.


By: @free__flowing

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / ANP Sport – Getty Images