The career of Portuguese center midfielder André Gomes has been a rollercoaster thus far. Its track has enjoyed some high peaks and endured some low valleys, but now it seems it’s climbing another hill with LOSC Lille in France’s Ligue 1.
The Grijó native started his football journey by bouncing around the academies of Porto, Pasteleira, Boavista, and Benfica before being called up to Benfica B at the age of 17. After scoring 8 goals in 17 games for them, he was called up to the Lisbon outfit’s first team in 2012 at age 19. The following year, Gomes made 18 appearances in all competitions, and scored a fantastic goal in the Portuguese Cup Semi-Finals en route to Benfica winning the first treble in club history.
His talent began to attract the attention of big clubs across Europe, and after two years in Liga NOS, he was snapped up by Valencia CF on loan for the 2014/15 season. He started 31 La Liga games, registered over 2,500 minutes, and chipped in with 4 goals and an assist from midfield that season. These achievements prompted Valencia to make his move permanent the next summer for a €20 million fee.
After another successful year at the Estadio Mestalla, Josep Bartomeu and FC Barcelona came knocking and paid Los Che €37 million to bring Gomes’ services to Camp Nou, where he featured heavily during his first season. The Portuguese’s rise to that point was meteoric, as he went from playing just 275 Liga NOS minutes as a 20-year-old at Benfica to appearing 30 times in La Liga for FC Barcelona just three years later. However, Gomes would soon need to brace for the plummet as he approached the first major valley in his career.
After manager Luis Enrique’s departure from Camp Nou at the end of the 2016/17 season, Ernesto Valverde took charge of the Blaugrana, and André Gomes quickly fell out of favor. Although Barcelona would regain their throne at the top of La Liga behind a ridiculous 34 goals and 12 assists from Lionel Messi in 2017/18, Gomes made only 16 league appearances that season, with only 6 of them being starts.
Those 635 minutes were by far the fewest he’d managed since leaving Benfica, so FC Barcelona decided to send him out on loan on deadline day to Premier League perennials Everton for the 2018/19 season. That year, Gomes’ rollercoaster ascended another hill, as he immediately impressed the Goodison Park faithful and was heralded as a “Rolls Royce midfielder”.
He thrived under the tutelage of his compatriot Marco Silva and played a crucial role in Everton’s midfield complexion. His 145 progressive passes completed that year remains the most he’s registered in a season since the statistic’s inception, and he also completed an impressive 106 passes into the final third during his 27 Premier League appearances.
Gomes also improved his defensive contributions, registering a career-high 0.91 interceptions/90 and a career-second-best 1.23 blocks/90. As a result, then Director of Football Marcel Brands negotiated a €25 million transfer with FC Barcelona, and Gomes was back at Goodison Park for good.
However, two large valleys approached in the next season. First, Marco Silva was sacked by the Everton hierarchy after a poor start to the 2019/20 season. Following his sacking, Gomes suffered a horrific ankle dislocation fracture against Tottenham Hotspur in November 2019. Although he would return in March 2020 after a fantastic recovery, the Portuguese was never quite the same for the Toffees after that incident.
His pass completion, progressive passing, completed passes, and interceptions would all decrease year-on-year after that. As a result, Gomes was consigned to just 7 Premier League starts in 2021/22 under a combination of Rafa Benitez and Frank Lampard. Despite Everton’s near relegation and severe lack of midfield depth, Gomes still only played 619 Premier League minutes last year, his fewest since 2013/14, and an even lower tally than his final season in Catalonia.
Thus, Everton decided to loan the midfielder to LOSC Lille on 2022’s Summer deadline day. With the additions of Amadou Onana, Idrissa Gueye, and James Garner in his position, it was clear that there would not be a place for the Portuguese in Lampard’s midfield.
The club couldn’t find any suitors for a long-term transfer, so they looked to alleviate at least part of his reported €130,000 weekly wage via a loan deal. Although the exact figure was never confirmed, Lille are likely helping Everton foot a significant portion of that hefty bill, but they are also reaping the benefits of Andre Gomes’ most recent resurgence.
As of late, Gomes has been excellent for Les Dogues, delivering four performances rated a 7.0 or above by FotMob in his last five games, and in 7 out of his last 14 starts. He registered two assists in Lille’s heartbreaking loss to PSG a few weeks back, and also scored a win-sealing goal against Rennes.
His statistics have skyrocketed since moving to the French league, as his 3.62 progressive passes/90 last season has jumped all the way up to a staggering 9.44, which ranks in the 99th percentile among midfielders in Europe’s Top 5 leagues.
Subsequently, his progressive passing distance/90 has also increased dramatically from 153.6 to 333.7, and his progressive passes received/90 have also grown from 1.88 to 2.52. This means that he’s both passing the ball into advantageous positions more often and also receiving the ball in them more often.
His pass completion of 85.9% is his highest since leaving Camp Nou, which is even more impressive when you consider that he’s attempting a career-high 73.8 passes/90, which ranks in the 96th percentile in his position. His Assists/90 and xA/90 are both at new career highs as well.
On top of all of this improvement with the ball, Gomes has also elevated his tackles/90 and blocks/90 to career highs of 1.21 and 1.40 respectively. His 0.65 interceptions/90 are also the second-highest of his career, only behind his first season at Everton. Head coach Paulo Fonseca has revived André Gomes to a level we’d never thought we’d see again by placing him next to Lille’s captain Benjamin André in the heart of a 4-2-3-1 formation, with either Rémy Cabella or Angel Gomes playing as a number 10 in front of them.
Benjamin André’s defensive capabilities have allowed Gomes to thrive on the ball, knowing that the Frenchman is there to sweep up any loose balls or possible counterattacks. He ranks in the 99th percentile amongst midfielders for tackles/90, the 88th percentile for both blocks and clearances, and the 98th for aerial duels won. It’s clear that André Gomes now has a defensive rock beside him to rely on, which has proven to be key to his rebound success.
Despite this, Gomes’ future is still uncertain. There is no option to purchase in Lille’s loan agreement with Everton, but I suspect that should Fonseca and company want the Portuguese back at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy next season, they shouldn’t find it too difficult to strike a deal with the financially-stricken Merseyside club. They should also be able to purchase the 29-year-old for a reasonable price considering he will only have one year left on his current Everton deal upon the end of his loan, and the Toffees will be looking to cash in.
Ligue 1 seems like a great fit for Gomes, and having had the privilege of having a conversation with him myself back in 2019, I can assure you that he’s just as classy off the pitch as he is on it. I fully wish him the best moving forward, whether he remains at my beloved Everton or not. Hopefully, we’ve seen the last of his rollercoaster’s dips, and he can continue to climb with LOSC Lille for the years to come.
By: Garrett Post / @ParrettGost
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Quality Sport Images / Getty Images