Liverpool have unearthed their new James Milner for £3.5m who Jurgen Klopp believes is 'wonderful'

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp with James Milner. (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp with James Milner. (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp with James Milner. (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Liverpool's quest to win four trophies continued with Joe Gomez playing a major

There might not be a bigger backhanded compliment in football. It's a phrase that salutes a player's attributes but simultaneously has connotations that they cannot nail down a specialist role.

But Joe Gomez won't care that he may now be regarded as Liverpool's utility man. Not one bit. The Reds' longest-serving player will be relishing regular action having rejuvenated his Anfield career.

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It was only four years ago that Gomez served as Virgil van Dijk's regular defensive partner on the road to Liverpool claiming their maiden Premier League title by a whopping 18 points. Yet a serious knee injury suffered the following campaign set Gomez's hurtling progress back. In the following two seasons, he struggled to restore himself as a regular in Jurgen Klopp's side. The former Charlton man made a total of 21 appearances in 2021-22, which included just four league starts.

In 2022-23, Gomez featured 31 times although Ibrahima Konate and Joel Matip were preferred alongside van Dijk for the most part.

In truth, there may have been some questioning whether Gomez may start to look at departing Merseyside. Despite signing a new long-term contract in July 2022, he must have craved regular action once again. The likes of Aston Villa and Tottenham had been linked with his services in the past. Towards the end of the summer window, it was reported that Saudi Pro League outfit Al-Ittihad coveted Gomez.

However, with Liverpool pushing for a four-trophy haul, Gomez's stock is arguably as high as it's ever been at Anfield. The Reds would not be in their position without him. In a season that has been awash with injuries, the 27-year-old has stepped up duly. In his 37 appearances so far - and is on track to surpass the 43 he made in the title-winning campaign - Gomez has occupied four positions. Two of which he's scarcely played in the past.

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The England international's favoured centre-half role is the one he's played the least. On just four occasions - and once from the outset in the Premier League - has Gomez lined up in the heart of Liverpool's rearguard. There have been a total of 17 appearances at right-back as he's covered for Trent Alexander-Arnold in cup games and when the vice-captain has been injured. And for six weeks while Andy Robertson and Kostas Tsimikas were sidelined with respective shoulder and collarbone issues, Gomez deputised on the left-hand side of the back four in 14 matches.

And in the past two encounters, Gomez has had to operate in a new remit - the number-six position. It was a surprise when he screened the defence when Southampton visited Anfield in the FA Cup fifth round. However, it proved a sage decision from Klopp which yielded a 3-0 triumph.

The Liverpool boss displayed the utmost faith in Gomez again to start him in midfield at Nottingham Forest and it was repaid. Gomez won all four aerial duels contested, made two clearances, two interceptions and one tackle, along with boasting an 80% passing accuracy. It helped the Reds keep a clean sheet on a difficult afternoon at the City Ground that allowed Darwin Nunez's 99th-minute header to ensure Liverpool remain at the summit of the Premier League table.

“If you play football at this level, there is [a big] difference between centre-half, full-back, right, left, to the No.6 – and he is capable of that transition in his mind,” said Klopp on Gomez.

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“He is one of those stories. What a wonderful player he is and I am so happy he can show that again. In midfield, the game is coming from all angles. Everything changes and he has dealt with it so well, it’s crazy. Really good and super-important.”

James Milner was blessed with versatility, operating in midfield and both full-back roles under Klopp before the veteran 38-year-old left for Brighton last summer.

Milner was someone held in the highest regard by the management team and dressing room both on and off the pitch. So much so that Klopp wanted the former England international to remain at Anfield despite being in the twilight years of his career. However, Gomez has now taken on that mantle. Signed for £3.5 million some nine years ago, it proves to be an astute deal.

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