Atalanta have been the revelation of the last 13 months in Serie A and while many of their players are receiving the recognition they deserve, Remo Freuler’s contribution has gone relatively unnoticed at the heart of their midfield.
The Swiss arrived in Bergamo from FC Luzern in January 2016 for €1.5 million and was still a relatively unknown quantity outside of his homeland, having only ever played for four Swiss clubs. He filled the recently vacated No.11 shirt, left by Maximiliano Moralez who had just departed for Club Leon, leaving supporters thinking they were signing an attack-minded flair player.
He has become an integral piece of the puzzle since Gian Piero Gasperini transformed the side from mid-table also-rans to a side who managed a fourth place finish in Serie A and one who top a Europa League group that also consists of the more recognisable names of Olympique Lyonnais and Everton.
Despite losing some key players in 2017, notably Franck Kessie and Roberto Gagliardini from central midfield, the Bergamo club have continued along without being knocked off track, and Freuler’s presence in the engine room is one of the main reasons for the continuation of their form.
Whether it is Marten de Roon or Bryan Cristante alongside him, or either Kessie or Gagliardini before them, what Freuler does never changes.
He is a complete midfielder. His tireless work rate matched with his often overlooked technical ability makes him perfectly suited to an energetic Atalanta side who rely on fight and persistent pressing as much as they do flair and creative spark.
Freuler ticks all of the boxes and whatever he is tasked with doing, he can carry it out.
Gasperini has selected him in all but one game so far this season, with his only exclusion coming when he was left on the bench in La Dea’s 2-1 win over Sassuolo in early September. Furthermore, the only time he has played and not seen out the entire 90 minutes came away at Chievo, when he was withdrawn after 67 minutes just three days after Atalanta handed Everton a 3-0 thumping in their European opener.
With or without the ball, Freuler is an asset to Atalanta and he has made the central midfield position his own this season, with his partner in the engine room not always being as constant.
His positioning and reading of the game without possession allows him to break up opponents’ attacks and when accompanied by De Roon, Atalanta’s back three have a tough shield in front of them which allows Mattia Caldara or Andrea Masiello to embark on their trademark forward adventures.
The 25-year-old averages 2.7 tackles per game in Serie A and four in Europe, while he also averages 1.3 interceptions per game domestically and 1 in the Europa League.
In possession, his distribution is accurate and he consistently completes upwards of 88 percent of his passes.
Perhaps the biggest improvement in his game this season has been around the opposition box, where he has proven his capabilities as a creator and goalscorer.
In 33 appearances last season he found the net five times, including an equaliser against Juventus; he already has three this season and has helped to ease the load on Alejandro Gomez by providing as many assists, too.
More than just scoring, he pops up when Atalanta need him most and, as well as the aforementioned goal against Juve, he has contributed a decisive last minute equaliser against Fiorentina this season, a match-winning and defence-splitting assist against Bologna, while he opened the scoring against Hellas Verona when La Dea were struggling to make their dominance count before going on to assist their second in a 3-0 win.
Freuler is an all-round midfielder and he is perfectly tailored for the needs of this Atalanta side. For just €1.5 million, the Bergamaschi have found a midfielder who can break up opposing attacks, distribute or carry the ball forward and create chances or score them himself.
If Freuler is to move on in the coming years, Atalanta will likely receive a sum at least ten times what they spent on him. While they have him, however, he will continue to go about his business in midfield quietly and efficiently, proving his worth in all areas.