The honest and ‘influential’ foundations driving Gomez’s formidable partnership with Van Dijk

A bond formed in the early days of Virgil van Dijk’s arrival has seen Joe Gomez’s partnership with the Dutchman flourish into a formidable force for Liverpool.

Gomez arrived at Anfield in the summer of 2015 as an 18-year-old who had spent his entire youth career at Charlton, a daunting switch for any young hopeful.

He needn’t wait long to make his debut under Brendan Rodgers, meaning he made an immediate impression only for an anterior cruciate ligament injury days after Jurgen Klopp’s arrival to derail his promising start.

A series of unfortunate contact injuries and a troublesome leg fracture would follow over the years, but Gomez has since re-established himself as an immovable feature of Liverpool’s back four.

And it is his outings alongside Van Dijk which has enthralled the masses, where the last 24 games they featured in together before games were suspended saw the Reds win 19 times.

It is an on-field partnership which is underpinned by a “great relationship” off it.

“I’ve said it before, but the stature of Virgil before he came to the club was massive,” Gomez explained to Sky Sports over video link.

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 7, 2019: Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk (L) celebrates with team-mate Joe Gomez after the FA Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Liverpool FC at the Vitality Stadium. Liverpool won 3-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“I was a young centre-back, hadn’t really gotten as many games there [at Liverpool] as I would have liked but as soon as he came in, he reached out with open arms and we formed a bond straight away.

“The fact that he is a down-to-earth person off the pitch, we get on really well and we have a great relationship.

“We talk and in times like this, we FaceTime and speak about general things so that helps on the pitch when you have an understanding. He’s your mate at the end of the day.

“Sometimes he gives me an earful, but it’s a massive help and a confidence booster just having someone like him beside you,” he added. “When there’s a one on one battle, you know he’s going to dominate, he doesn’t really lose headers at all.

“Just having him alongside you and his presence, it’s not just me, it’s the whole team and the stadium, when Virgil goes down, I think there is a bit of a gasp and a worry but he’s a real dominant force and a pleasure to play alongside.”

Since the Dutchman arrived in January 2018, Gomez has played 71 of his 100 games for Liverpool and he has tasted defeat in just 10 of those matches.

Joe Gomez of Liverpool lifts the cup during the UEFA Champions League match at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, Madrid. Picture date: 1st June 2019. Picture credit should read: David Klein/Sportimage via PA Images

In that time, the 22-year-old has been part of a Liverpool side who have won the European Cup, Super Cup, Club World Cup and one which is on course for the Premier League title – and it is his enforced time on the sidelines which has provided perspective on his career to date.

“I’ve had a lot of ups and downs, they have definitely put perspective on things in terms of just being grateful to play the game and always being a student of the game,” he continued.

“I’ve enjoyed the consistency and I’ve learned a lot about my body, I definitely took a lot from those injury periods.

“I’m at a club where there’s a platform that speaks for itself and on top of that a great manager that has helped me learn consistently. Obviously my dream is to be the best I can be.

“Virgil is an incredible influence on me and someone I can look up to, he doesn’t have many flaws at all. For me, it’s just about learning and developing the things I feel I can improve.

“My aim is to be up there and try to be the best I can be, wherever that takes me; hopefully at Liverpool for a long time and hopefully we can achieve good things.”