Nearly two years ago, when Liverpool announced the transfer of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from Arsenal on deadline day, the move met mixed reception. The £35m price tag seemed excessive for a player with only a year to run on his contract, and while weakening a rival is always a bonus, there were questions about the former Southampton man’s end product and durability.
After a settling-in period — customary as players familiarise themselves with the tenets of Jürgen Klopp-brand football — Ox put paid to doubts about his ability to generate goals, scoring three and assisting six in the last half of the season, including a pair of blockbusters in wins over champions Manchester City.
Sadly, the secondary worry — the 25-year old’s ability to stay healthy — proved valid, and in the middle of his most inspired run of form, the midfielder was forced out of commission, suffering a knee injury in a 5-2 win over Roma, one that would require reconstruction of multiple ligaments and keep him off the pitch for a full year.
On April 26th, 367 days after he was stretchered off against Roma, Ox made his return, and now, with only a single game left to play in the season, he is in with a shot at finishing what he started last year; lifting the Champions League trophy.
“Dreams are made of maybe having some part to play in Madrid,” said the £35m pound man. “But it’s not about me – it’s about making sure whoever is on the pitch does the job for the club and for the team.
“If I can be involved, that would be amazing, but just to be around it and be fit and healthy again is good for me as well at the minute.”
“At times it’s been a little bit frustrating,” he continued. “Because you feel you are back and to then keep up with these boys after the long season they’ve had and the intensity they train at, coming back from a year [out] it’s not so easy and you pick up little things along the way.
“It’s been another little journey for me the last part, but it’s been really exciting to be in and around the team and in contention to maybe have some part in the final, but just to be involved is amazing for me.
“After crutching my way around the pitch last year, it’s nice to be in this situation!”
It’s a feel-good story for a feel-good player, and whether he ends up playing any part in what takes place on the pitch in Madrid next weekend, one hopes that his team will be able to go one better than they did last year, for themselves, for the fans, and, in some small way, for the Ox.