No one told Germany winger Robin Gosens the etiquette for receiving a “star of the match” trophy at the European Championship.
“Should I take that thing with me or what?” he asked after being singled out for his performance in the 4-2 victory over defending champion Portugal on Saturday.
Gosens was still trying to come to terms with what happened after helping Germany turn its chances around at Euro 2020.
“It’s gigantic, you can’t put it in words,” said Gosens, who scored one goal and was involved in setting up two more in Saturday’s game. “If you look back on my career or the way I’ve gone, I think it’s simply indescribable and will stay in the memory forever. It’s definitely an evening I’ll never forget.”
It was just his ninth appearance for Germany after making his debut last year.
Gosens seemingly came from nowhere to get there. He never played for any of Germany's youth teams, forgoing the usual route of carefully managed and nurtured development for the country’s brightest football stars.
The 26-year-old defender took a windy road and left it late to shine at the Italian club, Atalanta.
Born to a German mother and Dutch father in the border town of Emmerich, Gosens played for local youth teams and Dutch clubs Vitesse and Heracles — a trial at Borussia Dortmund didn’t work out — before moving to Italy in 2017.
It’s there that Gosens really blossomed under Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini, who helped turn the team from relegation candidate to regular Champions League participant after three straight top-3 finishes in Serie A.
Gasperini demands a lot from his players in a 3-4-3 formation, where the tireless Gosens has thrived as a left-back or winger.
Germany coach Joachim Löw has been using the same formation at Euro 2020. Gosens started the games against France and Portugal on the left and can expect another run there in the final group game against Hungary on Wednesday.
“We value him in the team and as coaches very much because he’s very, very open, very active in communication," Löw said. "He has a very good relationship with all the players, is somehow clear in his head, very straightforward.
“He is a guy like the game he plays, everything with clear lines, throw everything into the balance, the way he plays with unbridled commitment, and fights for things that are important to him.”
Löw noted how Gosens had been scoring goals for Atalanta and said he had been observing the player for the last two years. Gosens made his Germany debut in a 1-1 draw with Spain on Sept. 3. He scored his first goal for Germany in the 7-1 rout of Latvia before the tournament on June 7.
“He asserted himself pretty quickly with us and has a good foothold in the team,” Löw said.
Gosens made a strong start against Portugal, volleying in Joshua Kimmich’s cross. But the goal was ruled out because Serge Gnabry was offside and deemed to have interfered with play.
Gosens simply carried on against Portugal and forced an own-goal from off Rúben Dias, set up Kai Havertz for Germany’s third, and then scored the fourth.
“It was just a dream come true for me," Gosens said. "I think if you’re permitted to compete at the European Championship for your country, that’s one thing. And if you can contribute in such an important game toward continuing in the tournament, then that’s the next level again. And yeah, it’s magic.”
Gosens was then given the “star of the match” trophy. It might not be his last.