Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren is highly anticipating the return of the "unbelievable" Joe Gomez, as his teammate closes in on a long-awaited injury comeback.
The 19-year-old tore knee ligaments while representing England U21s last October and has yet to kick a ball under Jürgen Klopp after an Achilles issue curtailed his rehabilitation in July.
But Gomez, who signed from Charlton Athletic in a £3.5 million deal in the summer of 2015, returned to training earlier this month and is finally nearing a return to action for the first time in over a year.
Croatian lauds fellow defender's fighting mentality
Lovren told Liverpoolfc.com that Gomez has endured a "really tough year" while sidelined, and admitted that "looking at him every day throughout the year" in which he couldn't play he still showed "so much strength."
The Croatian said that he was blown away by the "mentality" of the versatile defender, who had shone in a left-back role in pre-season and started the campaign there over Alberto Moreno before succumbing to injury in the October international break.
Lovren also said that Gomez "was always positive about everything" throughout his lay-off and that though he was "definitely disappointed" although he "never stopped believing" in himself.
Gomez was given an impromptu round of applause by his Reds teammates when he stepped back out on to the Melwood training pitches and 27-year-old Lovren added: "It was good to see him back on the pitch."
Lovren stunned by Gomez's quality at 'just 19'
It is unlikely that Gomez will feature under Klopp for the first time until at least beyond Christmas, such is the fight he will face to return to fitness and then full match sharpness.
But he should be helped by behind-closed-doors friendlies, and even cameos for Michael Beale's Under-23s side, as Liverpool look to do all they can to aid his recovery - though Klopp insisted they will not rush Gomez and instead will protect him on his way back.
Lovren believes that his fellow defender must first focus on getting back to 100 per-cent, but clearly relishes the return of the talented teenager.
"The most important thing for him now is to keep his fitness," continued the centre-back. "He's coming back and hopefully he will have some games this year."
Lovren reflected on when he played with Gomez last season, insisting he was "amazing" in the "first three games he played" for the first-team and had an "amazing start" to the campaign.
He added that Gomez is "so strong" - likely talking both mentally and physically - and called him "unbelievable" given that he's "just 19", predicting that he can go on and be "a top player" in his career.