By Alasdair Mackenzie
ROME (Reuters) - Two names dominate the headlines as the January transfer window opens in Italy: Christian Eriksen and Alejandro Gomez.
Two of the Serie A's most gifted players are expected to depart their respective clubs, Inter Milan and Atalanta, this month after ending 2020 disgruntled and out of favour.
Eriksen is yet to celebrate his first anniversary at Inter, having joined from Tottenham Hotspur on a 4-1/2 year deal last January to great fanfare.
But the Denmark international has failed to carve out a role in Antonio Conte's team, starting in 15 of his 38 appearances and scoring four goals.
The coach remains unconvinced that there is space for a creative midfielder like Eriksen in his 3-5-2 formation, preferring more dynamic, hard-working players like Nicolo Barella, Roberto Gagliardini or Arturo Vidal.
The 28-year-old he vented his frustrated at his limited opportunities in November.
"This isn't what I dreamed of," he told TV2.
"I think all footballers want to play as much as possible, but it's the coach who decides who plays."
Conte insisted his selection was "for the good of Inter". However, sections of the Italian media then accused the coach of humiliating Eriksen when he was brought on for the dying minutes of four matches in two weeks, with little time to contribute.
The theory that Eriksen's time was up was confirmed on Dec. 23 when Inter chief executive Giuseppe Marotta was asked if the midfielder was for sale.
"I'd say so, yes," he responded. "But it's not a punishment... he's a player who had a few issues in adjusting to life at Inter."
UNREST AT ATALANTA
One player Inter might look at as a replacement for Eriksen is Atalanta captain Papu Gomez, who looks set to leave after an explosive fall out with coach Gian Piero Gasperini.
The 32-year-old has been an instrumental part of the Bergamo club's rise from relegation battlers to Champions League quarter-finalists over the last four years.
But a row with Gasperini during Atalanta's Champions League draw with FC Midtjylland on Dec. 1 changed everything, with reports claiming the argument was over Gomez's refusal to move to the right wing during the match.
Speculation of unrest was fuelled when Gomez posted on social media: "When I leave you will know the truth about everything".
Gomez returned to the team for a win over Ajax Amsterdam and made an impact from the bench in a 1-1 draw at Juventus last month, but the captain's attitude was called into question after he didn't join in celebrations for his team's equaliser.
The Argentina international was then left out of the squad for the following game against AS Roma, with Gasperini saying "there are several captains in the squad".
Gomez has now been frozen out for three consecutive matches and a departure seems inevitable after recent comments from owner Antonio Percassi.
"We've talked enough about this," he told Eco di Bergamo.
"The case is closed. Gasperini for life."
(Reporting by Alasdair Mackenzie; Editing by Christian Radnedge)