Almost five months on from his last outing, Liverpool youngster Marcelo Pitaluga made his return for title-winning Macclesfield in a star showing.
Pitaluga spent three months on the sidelines with ankle ligament damage suffered on loan with Macclesfield, with his comeback instead enjoyed at Liverpool.
Four outings for the Liverpool under-21s and a regular presence with the first team on matchdays suggested the young Brazilian goalkeeper had cut ties with his non-league hosts.
But Saturday brought a surprise return for Pitaluga at Macclesfield, days after they secured their status as Northern Premier League Division One West champions.
The title-winners took on City of Liverpool FC in the 35th game of the league campaign, 138 days after he was sidelined in the 2-1 defeat to Runcorn Linnets in November.
And the 20-year-old produced an outstanding performance as Macclesfield thrashed their Merseyside opponents 5-0, including a Nicky Maynard hat-trick.
??That’s 12 clean sheets for Marcelo this season for the Silkmen ? pic.twitter.com/hg2GGV2QNG
— Macclesfield FC (@thesilkmen) April 9, 2023
Pitaluga played the full 90 minutes and kept his 12th clean sheet in 24 games this season, having conceded only 17 goals in that time.
There were a number of important saves, including to deny substitute Danny Mitchley twice in the space of three second-half minutes.
It remains to be seen whether Pitaluga will play again for Macclesfield this season, with only two fixtures remaining, having been left out of their squad to play Hanley Town on Monday.
Saturday brings the visit of Prescot Cables before the campaign closer away to Mossley on April 22.
The youngster will likely divide his time between Macclesfield and Liverpool in the coming weeks, with four more games left for the U21s.
That includes the mini-Merseyside derby on Saturday, before meetings with West Ham (April 22), Fulham (April 30) and Crysal Palace (May 6).
Liverpool are expected to field more high-profile loan interest in Pitaluga this summer, while there were rumours of permanent offers from AC Milan and Atletico Madrid.
He could, however, be promoted to the first-team setup under Jurgen Klopp, with Caoimhin Kelleher and Adrian both potentially on the way out this summer.
Harvey Davies is another alternative to step up from the academy, while The Athletic‘s James Pearce suggested on Sunday that Adrian “may sign another short extension.”