Ilicic fell into depression after catching coronavirus, says Atalanta team-mate Gomez

Josip Ilicic - Atalanta Sampdoria
Getty Images
The Slovenia star was allowed to return to his homeland as he missed out on the final games of last season after contracting the virus

Atalanta star Josip Ilicic became depressed after he tested positive for Covid-19, team-mate Papu Gomez has revealed.

The city of Bergamo was hit hard by the spread of coronavirus earlier this year, with an average of 40 people dying each day at the height of the pandemic.

Ilicic missed the last seven games of the 2019-20 campaign, including the Champions League quarter-final defeat to Paris Saint-Germain, as he was allowed to return to Slovenia.

Article continues below

Reports in Italy claimed the 32-year-old was not in the right frame of mind to feature for Gian Piero Gasperini's team and Gomez says he struggled after being diagnosed with Covid-19. 

“He had the coronavirus and fell into depression,” Gomez said in an interview with TyC Sports. “There comes a moment when the head explodes. Luckily he recovered and he's fine now. He is very important to us."

Gomez, 32, joined Atalanta from Ukrainian side Metalist in 2014 and was handed the captain's armband in his third season with the club.

He expects to see out the rest of his playing career with the Serie A outfit, saying: "I still have three years left on my contract, in February I will turn 33.

"I will surely stay here in Bergamo, we are very comfortable and I will have a position at the club in the future."

The forward made four appearances for Argentina in 2017 but was left out of the squad until national team boss Lionel Scaloni called him up for the World Cup qualifying games this month.

He was an unused substitute for the matches against Ecuador and Bolivia, but he was happy to be part of the team again.

"I had not returned for three years, for me it was spectacular to return because it is not easy at my age," he added. 

"Obviously I would have loved to go on for a few minutes, but what happened, happened. The game against Ecuador asked for one more player, but the coach chose another.

"I noticed [Lionel] Messi was very happy with this group in the national team. If he is happy, we will all be happy. We know what he experienced in these months at Barcelona, ​​surely he is not comfortable with how the team is playing. 

"I think Argentina has the obligation to reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup. You cannot demand to be the champions now.

"I won't pretend that we are Germany, but when you can work three or four years with the same person, things turn out better. Hopefully this will happen with Scaloni."