AC Milan’s trip to Atalanta this evening will see two midfielders battle who have similar back stories in Teun Koopmeiners and Tijjani Reijnders.
La Gazzetta dello Sport writes how Koopmeiners and Reijnders are the same age, born in 1998, and are midfielders who are not the same, but similar. They have been trained in total football, they know how to do everything and can cover every role and function in midfield, from regista up to playmaker.
In their career they have only faced each other once, in the 2019-20 Dutch league season, when Reijnders was loaned by AZ Alkmaar to RKC Waalwijk, which Koopmeiners’ side won 4-0.
In recent years the AZ method involves the use of algorithms and the Dutch club turned to Billy Beane, the baseball ‘mathematician’, the man who inspired the film starring Brad Pitt and who also collaborates with Milan.
It is likely that Giorgio Furlani and Geoffrey Moncada signed Reijnders largely because of numbers and data, even if his qualities can be seen with the naked eye. Koopmeiners is the finished (10 league goals last season, three this season), Reijnders more creative, but both move and play with rationality.
The dominance of one over the other, assuming it occurs, could shift the axis of today’s match. So far Koopmeiners has had more of an impact in terms of goals, assists and opportunities created, but Reijnders’ Milan have 9 points more, a notable distance, so much so that today is a crucial turning point for Atalanta’s dreams of placing in the Champions League.