Martin King discusses Joe Gomez’ return to the Liverpool team and what it means.

A year ago, I wrote an article that would eventually become my first ever published piece. It was a view on an 18-year-old relatively unknown youngster by the name of Joe Gomez.

The Englishman, a centre-back, was bought by Liverpool in June 2015 from Charlton Athletic, the Reds paying a fee of £3.5 million to acquire his services. Fans and experts immediately viewed it as one for the future, as Gomez was initially touted as a talented youngster with all the potential to become a great defender.

There were even talks of an immediate loan exit after he put pen to paper on a five-year contract, however, what followed would take the entire football world by surprise.

Under the guidance of then manager Brendan Rodgers, Gomez was quickly drafted into Liverpool’s first team.

Having played the bulk of their pre-season fixtures and impressing Reds fans the world over, the defender would soon make his Premier League debut for the club at Stoke City, going on to make six more appearances for Liverpool, before suffering a season-ending anterior cruciate ligament injury while playing for the England under 21 squad.

Either way, the young man made a great first impression on fans and pundits and now a year on from the article that discussed his good start to life on Merseyside, I assess whether or not it can and will continue.

Massive potential

From the very beginning, when Gomez pulled on a Liverpool shirt in the club’s pre-season fixtures, it was clear that he had massive potential to be great.

The former Charlton Athletic starlet had just made the first big move of his career and yet he was displaying an undisturbed composure around a team of seasoned professionals.

Gomez introduced himself as a ball-playing centre-half who combines his vision with a good passing range. Off the ball, he was just as much a menace for opposition strikers. Gomez possesses good physical strength and his height of 6 feet 2 inches also makes him an aerial threat – only two outfield players in the Liverpool squad (Marko Grujič and Joel Matip) are taller than the Englishman.

He has got a crunching tackle in him and despite giving away a penalty in Liverpool’s last league visit to Manchester United’s Old Trafford, Gomez rarely gives away silly fouls. He is also noted for his versatility and former boss Rodgers utilised that attribute last year by playing the centre-back as a left-back and even there Gomez delivered.

When pundits compared him to Rio Ferdinand, it wasn’t merely because growing up, he looked up to the former England international as a role model, but because some of Ferdinand’s best qualities were evident in his game.

Welcome return

Last Thursday, Gomez returned to training with Jürgen Klopp’s squad after a year sidelined by injury.

According to the Liverpool Echo, the defender was welcomed back into the squad’s session at Melwood with a round of applause from his teammates, in recognition of his lengthy rehabilitation.

His manager was also at the heart of the warm greeting and would later express his delight with Gomez’ return before confirming that the youngster will not be rushed back into action.

“With a big applause, he came back. It was really nice to have the boy back in training.” Klopp said, according to Liverpool’s official website.

“It is only parts of training. He needs time, he has to do a lot until he’s match fit, but it’s really good to have him back.

He added, “Actually, it is the first time I’ve had him. He got his injury in the international break when I came here last year.

“Now it is his first time on the pitch with the team. It was really a very nice moment.”

Future prospects

The fact that Gomez’ teammates welcomed him back into the squad fittingly proves they’re still very much aware of the good impression he initially made.

On boss Klopp’s part, it’s evidence that although they only just met for the first time on the training pitch, the centre-back will be a part of the German’s first team plans when he returns to full fitness.

Such is the demand and expectation placed on a talented footballer’s shoulders that fans can sometimes forget that Gomez is now only 19 years old.

To some extent, age matters little in football but in this respect, it does so and in a good way. Gomez’ age means he has plenty of time to continue his development at a top level.

Klopp is a big admirer of young talent and has, throughout his career, focused a lot of his energy towards developing potential into world class quality. With that said, Gomez’ Liverpool career certainly isn’t over, in fact, it’s only just beginning, again.

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