After 18 months on the sidelines with a knee injury, Jon Flanagan is set to make his long-awaited return to full training next week.
Flanagan played a key role in Liverpool’s title-challenging campaign in 2013/14, operating at left-back in Brendan Rodgers’ back four.
But after undergoing surgery on a knee problem at the end of that season, the versatile defender has missed a year and a half of action.
The Reds have since signed Nathaniel Clyne and Alberto Moreno to reinforce their full-back ranks, but the return of Flanagan will provide new manager Jurgen Klopp with welcome cover.
The Liverpool-born talent is set to return to full training next week after a successful recovery, according to James Pearce of the Liverpool Echo.
This marks a significant milestone for Flanagan, after appearing in Steven Gerrard’s charity all-star game in March.
The 22-year-old played half an hour at Anfield that day, but will now be hoping to earn a spot in Klopp’s first-team squad for competitive outings.
Klopp welcomed Flanagan’s return as his squad begins to flesh out, suggesting that this would ensure a quiet January on Merseyside.
“I don’t feel we have to look at other people just because they cost £20 million,” he explained on Friday.
“Flanno will come back in next week. Then we’ll have two full-backs left, two right.”
But with Flanagan’s contract set to expire at the end of the season, he faces a major test to prove his credentials under a new manager.
An aggressive, defensive-minded full-back, Flanagan could fit in within Klopp’s new Reds regime.
His return to full training will give Klopp the opportunity to assess his talents first hand, and Flanagan will be buoyed by the German’s approach to a former academy team-mate, Brad Smith.
Smith has made two appearances under Klopp so far, after signing a new deal with the club in November—ending a miserable summer of contract purgatory.
Klopp’s influence was key to Smith renewing his terms, and the former Borussia Dortmund manager believes the Australian international can be a useful player for the Reds.
“You know it was a difficult story with him and when I first came he wasn’t here,” he said.
“I saw a few videos and in training and he’s a good boy—very fast.
“He put in a perfect cross against Sion, which on that ground wasn’t easy. He can get better in everything but he’s a good boy and I like to work with him.”
In Flanagan, Smith, Moreno, Clyne and Connor Randall, Liverpool’s full-back options are now in good shape.