It seems like every year, there are a handful of players in the Bundesliga who start to flirt with stardom.
Germany’s top flight has built a reputation as one of the finest leagues for young players looking to find their footing in the European game, and it’s no coincidence that some of the game’s top talents have spent time in Germany.
These days, the headlines are dominated by the likes of Jadon Sancho, Erling Haaland, Dayot Upamecano, all of whom are being tipped to seal blockbuster moves to various European giants, but one player who also deserves your attention is Stuttgart forward Nicolas Gonzalez.
On first glance, his young career doesn’t exactly leap off the paper. The Argentinian moved to Europe in 2018, but he wasn’t given much time to adjust to life in a new country. He struggled in 2018/19 as Stuttgart were relegated to the second tier, but that’s where he found his footing.
In the 2. Bundesliga, Gonzalez exploded. Playing everywhere across the forward line, he notched 14 goals and three assists to fire Stuttgart back to the top flight, but this time he’s proven to be ready for the top flight.
Before the Bundesliga‘s winter break, Gonzalez had dealt with a handful of injuries, yet still sat on four goals and one assist from four starts – form which has earned links to Tottenham and Juventus. The 22-year-old has been a vital part of Pellegrino Matarazzo’s youthful squad, helping them towards a comfortable spot in the league table.
On paper, Gonzalez is billed as a left winger, but he’s a player who can’t really be limited to one position. It’s not uncommon to see the 22-year-old pop up on the right wing, but he’s done some of his best work as a central striker over the past few seasons.
His versatility stems from the broad nature of his skill set. Out wide, Gonzalez is a speed demon who loves taking defenders on in one-on-one situations – he averaged close to eight dribbles per 90 minutes in the 2. Bundesliga.
As a central creator, he boasts great positional skills and is capable of finding space between the lines. He’s also blessed with a real predatory instinct which allows him to convert chances at an above-average rate.
His bread-and-butter is finding himself in space and relying on his skill to get his team moving forward, whether that be using pace and trickery on a 40-yard run or using vision to slip in a simple pass behind a defence.
A common criticism of Gonzalez is that he is perhaps too reliant on his left foot. When chances fall to him on his right, he’s not nearly as reliable as on his left. A particularly awful miss during December’s 1-0 loss to Wolfsburg spoke of both a lack of faith in his right and a potential lapse in concentration.
Gonzalez is well aware of that, however. He has made great progress with his weaker foot in recent months, but also knows how to shift his body to ensure the ball falls on his left. It’s not a major concern in his game, but something which has been identified as a fault.
Gonzalez has been compared to a handful of different players, which speaks volumes of the extent of his skills.
Comparisons to Argentina and Valencia legend Mario Kempes have been rife since Gonzalez’s ex-manager, Alfredo Berti, first suggested the idea, but later similarities have been drawn between the 22-year-old and Real Madrid great Raul.
It’s Gonzalez’s movement which earns him the most praise. He’s a do-it-all kind of forward capable of linking up play and finishing things off himself, and now the challenge is to continue to do so on a regular basis.
“He’s got a lot of qualities, but what I like best about him is that he’s a winner,” Matarazzo said (via Stuttgarter Nachrichten). “He wants to win at all costs. He always gives 100%, and gets stuck in. He’s very important for us.”