If it weren’t for Mohamed Salah’s stunning debut season, Roberto Firmino’s excellent production on both sides of the ball, and the mercurial magic of Philippe Coutinho, one could make a perfectly rational argument that Joe Gomez has been Liverpool’s best player this year. With 22 appearances at the halfway point of the season — only Dejan Lovren has managed more in the Reds defense — and pulling shifts across the entire backline, the 20-year old has transitioned from question mark to exclamation point in 2017.
Coming off consecutive season-ending knee injuries, there were reasonable doubts about Gomez’s chances of ever coming good on the immense talent he displayed when first arriving at the club in 2015. Yet, two and a half years after his £3.5m(!) move from Charlton Athletic, the Catford native has overcome his injury troubles and grown into a legitimate starting caliber option for Jürgen Klopp’s Reds. A penchant for combining his youthful athleticism with genuine veteran reads has seen young JoeGo Bonito make the kinds of plays only very special talents make, on a far more consistent basis than one would’ve dared hope back in August.
Although mainly deployed as a right fullback this season, Gomez will in all likelihood transition to his natural centre-back role sooner or later. However, with record-signing Virgil van Dijk now at the club, the former Charlton man finds himself with yet another hurdle to overcome. He doesn’t seem to mind, though.
“Personally, for me, it’s someone else I can learn from,” the 20-year-old told the club’s official site.
“He is an experienced defender with a lot of quality. It’s another person for me to develop and learn from, the same as I have with Joel, Dejan, Raggy and so on. It’s nice to have someone else to try to help you develop. And for the team it is another massive signing.
“It shows the [stature of the] club and the faith people have in what the manager is trying to build here,” he continued. “It shows what type of manager we have got, that people want to come and play for him. I know everyone here has that feeling – they just want to play and do well for him.
“It’s nice to be in a squad with so much world-class talent. It gives you confidence when you go out on the pitch that teams are thinking, ‘we’ve got a tough task today’. And now there is another massive addition with Van Dijk.”
That’s really about as professional an attitude as you’d expect from a 20-year old coming out the other side of two career-threatening injuries looking the way Gomez has this year, although fans will certainly hope the young man hasn’t based his entire defensive game on the exploits of Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan. Is that a Gomez/van Dijk 2019 bandwagon we hear rumbling towards us in the distance? It certainly sounds like it.