Joe Gomez was regarded as one of the best young talents in the country when he arrived at Liverpool from Charlton in 2015, for a fee of £3.5 million. Brendan Rodgers was a huge admirer at the time, and wanted him to come straight into the first-team setup.
Gomez established himself in the first eleven for a period when he first arrived, but then suffered a cruciate ligament injury when on international duty for England under-21’s. Once he returned, an Achilles injury was a further set-back: only since the turn of this year has he been able to train properly again.
Liverpool's number 12 has featured several times for their under-23’s this season since returning from the second injury, and managed three appearances for the first team, but has fallen down the pecking order as a result of his prolonged absence and current lack of match sharpness.
Gomez is highly valued
Jürgen Klopp and his team, particularly Pep Ljinders, are huge fans of Gomez, and firmly believe he has a long-term future at the club. They view him as a perfect centre-back; comfortable on the ball and positionally aware in defensive situations as a defender for any of the top clubs must be in today’s game. His strength and athleticism alongside his technique make him a potentially formidable defender.
Considering the options that Liverpool have at the back already, with Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren last year’s preferred partnership, and Ragnar Klavan and Lucas able deputies, before even considering the pursuit of Virgil van Dijk proving the club are in the market for another defender, Gomez and the club must consider whether he would be better served going out on loan.
There might be a chance for him to get into the side at left-back since Alberto Moreno will be moved on, leaving James Milner as the only other player in that position, but Gomez’s long-term future lies in the middle. It might be more beneficial in the long-run for him to go somewhere else if he can be guaranteed games in his favoured central berth.
Klopp will assess the player over the summer during pre-season and make a final decision, but the importance of the choice cannot be underestimated. At this stage of his career, coming off the back of such a long time out, it needs to be the right call.
Bournemouth, who last year did a good job of developing Nathan Ake who was on loan from Chelsea for a period, would be an interesting option, whilst Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle United will be looking for reinforcements, and the Spaniard could go back to his former club for a favour.
Huddersfield Town, managed by Klopp's close friend David Wagner, are also a likely option, as well as lots of other middle or lower Premier League teams. Brighton and Hove Albion have already been linked, and other teams like West Ham or Swansea would surely take a look.
Wherever he should end up, he will get game time because of Liverpool's policy of integrating into loan agreements financial penalties for loanees not playing at the club they go. The only question is whether he could get the same amount of game time if he were to stay put.
With more games next season, Liverpool need a bigger squad, but Gomez cannot afford not to play. A permanent deal is out of the question, but a season-long loan is more than a possibility. Time will tell what Liverpool decide to do, but they have to get it right for the sake of the player.