The respect that Marten de Roon earned from Atalanta supporters after only a year was a measure of how much he had done in his first season at the club.
He was bought from Heerenveen for just €1.25m and managed to make Atalanta fans fall in love with him right from the start.
Talk of De Roon captaining the club started, and he said “It would be an honor, I want to stay. It would be a wonderful recognition of everything I have done, For now though it’s too soon. I don’t know the language well enough and there are other players who understand the club and the city better. They deserve it. Not me.”
One of the reasons Atalanta fans took so well to De Roon was his style of play, Bergamo is Proudly blue collar, they value hard work, grit and determination above everything else. To watch De Roon was to see one of them on the pitch.
When a Dutch TV crew travelled to Italy to do a feature on him, the title of it ‘The Bulldog of Bergamo’ soon became his nickname. “On the pitch, something clicks,” De Roon told them. “I become a bit of a dick. I enjoy standing on someone’s toe every now and again or whispering in someone’s ear if they do something wrong or miss a chance.” He relishes the physical battle. “Sometimes I go up against really talented players,” De Roon added, “so you’ve got to keep on top of them to throw them off their game a bit.”
De Roon’s strengths include, Good concentration, Blocking the ball, Interceptions, Tackling and he is good in the air. His one weakness possibly being his discipline.
Atalanta were the most aggressive team in Serie A last season. They were shown a league high 14 red cards, six of which were straight reds. De Roon was responsible for one of them, a second bookable offence in April against Torino. But he isn’t a bad boy. “I would never intentionally injure anyone or go in with two legs or tackle dirty. I play tough but fair, I keep it within the rules of the game.”
De Roon led Serie A in tackles last season (121) and was second for interceptions (132). “He’s extraordinary,” his manager Edy Reja said. “He isn’t very gifted from a technical point of view, but he has improved a lot in his combination play.”
A revelation in Serie A, De Roon soon attracted interest from Italy’s biggest clubs. Napoli were said to have first refusal, but not in writing. Lazio also got in touch with Atalanta about him, but in the end, Middlesbrough acted more decisively and at the moment, if you get into an auction with a Premier League club there is invariably only going to be one winner.
Atalanta have made a nice profit, but Boro have got great value for money. He is 25 and it wont be long before he is capped for Holland, in Atalanta its a surprise that he is still hasnt had one.
The Italians will miss him and as Boro will soon discover, de Roon is not just any player.
3.4 Tackles per game
3.7 Interceptions per game
45.8 Passes per game
77.2% Pass accuracy
Stats courtesy of Opta and Whoscored.