Joe Gomez - Liverpool's adaptable NxGn centre-back and the apple of Klopp's eye

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The former Charlton Athletic star has done well to recover from some serious injuries and make himself a regular in Liverpool's starting line-up

The impact Alisson and Virgil van Dijk have had on Liverpool's once-porous back line has certainly not been understated. The £140 million ($176m) pair have been lauded by fans and pundits alike, helping the Reds to concede just six goals in the Premier League this season.

But while the majority of attention has been drawn to the club's expensive acquisitions, Joe Gomez's exceedingly rapid development has almost gone under the radar.

After enjoying an encouraging start to his Anfield career, Gomez suffered a serious knee injury just days after Jurgen Klopp succeeded Brendan Rodgers in October 2015.

A series of setbacks meant the former Charlton Athletic academy graduate made only three FA Cup appearances in Klopp's first full season, but in 2017-18 he managed to establish himself in his manager's plans, impressing primarily at right-back but also at centre-half, where he has really come into his own during the current campaign.

Gomez, now a fully-fledged England international, makes on average 60 passes per game as the Reds typically have the lion's share of possession, while a passing accuracy of 85% and the execution of seven key passes outshine many midfielders in the Premier League.

Composed, pacy and dominant in one-on-one battles, Gomez was rewarded for his momentous start to the season with a new six-year deal and was duly lavished with praise by Klopp, who recently pinpointed what he thinks is the defender's greatest asset.

"His versatility is something that makes him even more valuable," Klopp said. "He can play centre-half in almost any system you can think of, plus both full-back positions.

"It is no exaggeration to say he is one of England’s best defenders already, but when you keep in mind he is still very young the room for further improvement and development is just so exciting.

“Off the pitch, I think I recently described him as the nicest boy on the planet, and I mean it. He is so humble, so grounded, that it is a pleasure for me, my staff and the other players to work with him every day at Melwood."

NxGn Joe Gomez

Klopp's sentiments are shared by former England captain Rio Ferdinand, who believes his compatriot has the right mentality to succeed - as shown by his ability to recover from a major injury. 

"He had a big injury when he first signed and he's shown character to come back," Ferdinand said. "This is his first full season, and yes he's going to make mistakes positionally because he's a young defender and young defenders do that, but he doesn't make many. 

"The raw materials he's got: the pace, the power, the desire, he's aggressive, very cool under pressure and great on the ball. He also plays off both feet and has pace to make recovery tackles if he does make a positional error. At the moment he's been able to get out of trouble with his pace.

"But this kid for me, he's on the march to be the best defender we've got in England. I rate him so highly. He's calm, he's cool and you need that when you're under pressure."

Gomez's admirable progress has been curtailed for the time being due to a lower leg fracture, but the second half of the season could see him lose the 'potential' tag and establish himself as one of the top centre-backs in Europe, with some major trophies to boot.

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