Liverpool defender Joe Gomez has returned to full training this week, marking his successful recovery from an anterior cruciate ligament injury.
The youngster, who started the 2015/16 season brightly after a £3.5 million move from Charlton Athletic last summer, broke down while on duty with the England Under-21s last October.
This saw him ruled out for the rest of the season, while a further setback led him to miss out on the start of the 2016/17 campaign.
Liverpool have undergone considerable change since Gomez’s injury, with Jurgen Klopp inspiring an upturn in fortunes, having taken over just days before.
But the German has backed Gomez to return to the first-team setup, saying after his injury last year that “this is his home.”
This was underlined, as the Liverpool Echo‘s Ian Doyle has revealed, with the Reds squad applauding Gomez onto the pitch on his return to full training this week.
Gomez is unlikely to feature in the immediate future, with Klopp taking a cautious approach with injured players in the past.
But his involvement in training boosts the German’s options at the back, with Gomez proven at both left- and right-back, as well as possessing the attributes to shine at centre-back.
Gomez could serve as backup to first-choice full-backs James Milner and Nathaniel Clyne, with the latter’s importance highlighted by a knee injury suffered just before the international break.
If Clyne is unable to turn out for the Reds at any stage this season, Klopp has few options at right-back, with Connor Randall his only other specialist in the role.
Milner, Gomez and Emre Can can all arguably take up duties on the right defensive flank, and with Milner and Can established in their respective roles at left-back and in midfield, Gomez may be the most likely.
At centre-back, he would be behind Joel Matip, Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan, but Mamadou Sakho’s first-team exile could see Gomez challenge Lucas Leiva for the role of fourth choice.
Still just 19 years old, Gomez has a bright future ahead of him at Liverpool, and under a manager who has showcased great faith in youth, he should be given the opportunity to impress this season.