Joe Gomez is no stranger to adversity or a comeback having been through his fair share, but his latest injury was undoubtedly his “most challenging.”
Standing on the touchline next to Virgil van Dijk last Thursday before going on to play the final 20 minutes against Hertha Berlin was more than eight months in the making for Gomez – 261 days to be exact.
A ruptured patellar tendon while on England international duty last November would send the 24-year-old back to the rehab room for another gruelling stint.
It came following an ACL injury to the opposite knee and a serious ankle injury in the preceding seasons, unlucky contact injuries that forced the pause button on his promising career.
But he’s hit play once more as he continues to take steps back to full match fitness throughout pre-season alongside his teammates under the watch of Jurgen Klopp.
It’s the final stages of a long and arduous journey and the hope now is for a “fresh start” for Gomez to kick on and add to his 121 appearances for the club to date.
“It’s been a tough one, I’ve had my fair few now. This is probably the most challenging one, for sure,” Gomez told the How to be a Baller podcast from VERSUS, which was filmed before the return to training.
“Just because of the nature of how things happened; the timing of it was frustrating for me personally but [now] I’m in a good place.
“I hope in pre-season I’m ready to go. It’s been mentally really challenging in the sense that having to rebuild my body this many times.
“I think some players sometimes when it happens we see it as a project, a chance to come back better, stronger and I had that many setbacks and warnings I was already so grateful to be fit and to be playing, I didn’t really need the reminder at the time.
“Everything happens for a reason and it’s been a real journey to just look at the game again. Watching the Euros and so on has been difficult.
“It’ll be nice to have a fresh start and go again.”
The early signs so far are promising, with no signs of his pace and physicality suffering and each box ticked off in pre-season comes as a relief for the player, staff and fans alike.
It’s a similar story for Virgil van Dijk, with the pair undergoing their rehab together and pushing each other to their milestones, a “blessing in disguise.”
“I’m thankful for sure. Everyone knows Virg’s quality, the best centre-back in the world and it’s something I’m blessed to be amongst. He’s got such an elite mentality,” Gomez added.
“Being injured at the same time has been difficult but a blessing in disguise, the comfort of having someone to speak to.”