Premier League • England

Gomez ‘can’t dispute’ over Villa rumours but claims major Van Dijk influence in Liverpool future

Joe Gomez, Liverpool pre-season July 2022

Joe Gomez says that he heard about transfer interest from Aston Villa but that his heart was in staying at Liverpool – with Virgil van Dijk a key influence.

Gomez’s future had emerged as a contract concern for the Reds leading into this summer’s transfer window. Not only did he have two years left on his contract, but he has also struggled for game time.

The centre-back finds himself fourth in Jurgen Klopp’s pecking order. He therefore most often filled in at right-back last season, albeit to good effect.

And Gomez eased further concerns over his Liverpool future earlier this month by signing a new deal. The fresh five-year contract ended long-term talk of reported interest in him from Villa boss Steven Gerrard.

Speaking to the Liverpool Echo, Gomez admitted that many other people in his situation would have looked to move on. However, he insisted that he felt a new contract was still a perfect option for him.

“I can understand why people would have thought I’d be considering moving on, for sure, 100%,” the 25-year-old said. “It’s apparent from my age now and based on my opportunities in the past, there was definitely still a decision for me to make.

“I guess you could see it at as a crossroads. But speaking to the club, I knew it was an important decision for me to make.

“Fundamentally, the opportunity that I have here and the platform and the chance to be at this club is one that is hard to walk away from.

“Essentially, it was me accepting the fact I have got to take on the challenge.”

Gomez on Villa rumours and Van Dijk

Gomez added that he “can’t dispute” that he heard about the Villa transfer rumours.

He added: “But until things are concrete with my representatives, I take it all with a pinch of salt. Any interest is flattering, but I don’t really see it like as that much of a distraction because until I make my decision, the external noise is just that – external.

“Once I got my head around what I wanted to do, my signing is me understanding the challenge and wanting to rise to it.”

And he claimed fellow Reds centre-back Van Dijk – who is the nailed-on starter in Klopp’s defence – was a big influence in him staying.

“It helps give context, I suppose,” Gomez said of his comparisons with Van Dijk.

“Virgil had gone 26 when he arrived, so me looking at what he achieved from that age on, knowing I still have the opportunity to try and have that time ahead of me, is obviously something to chase and aspire towards.

“What Virg has done is going to make him a legend at the club in world football. That’s the target. To aim high helps you achieve as much as you can. Ibou [Ibrahima Konate] being even younger than me, it’s obvious we have time ahead of us.”

Liverpool have no defensive problems

Gomez’s new deal after Konate signed last summer means Liverpool are at ease with their defensive options.

They have, of course, had injuries in that area, most notably in the 2020/21 season. Gomez, Van Dijk and Matip all suffered long-term problems, springing a crisis for Klopp.

When the trio and Konate are fit, though, Liverpool have some of the best defensive depth in the Premier League.

And the fact that none of the four players feel disgruntled at the competition – Gomez especially, since he has had to fill in at right-back – shows the harmony in the group as they chase more silverware.

Matip will be Liverpool’s next defensive contract concern since his deal runs out in 2024. But given his progress at Anfield and his regular role, he may well sign another new deal too.