The sum being quoted may well be relative pocket money for a club of Liverpool’s standing, but only Darren Bent, on the back of 31 Premier League goals over two seasons, has been sold by Charlton Athletic for more.
So maybe that genuine disappointment outweighs the excitement of potentially having £6m or so to spend is the clearest indication of Joe Gomez’s ability. The money, if spent wisely, could help to make the Addicks a competitive force in the Championship, but the value of keeping the home-grown defender is equally high.
Some of the reasons for that are, as you might expect, Charlton-centric and have little standing on his prospects of being a success at Liverpool. Our ownership, for which trust is already low, made promises that we would be able to keep our best academy graduates for the maximum amount of time that we possibly could, and the sale has raised question marks over how ambitious we are attempting to be.
But the most disappointing factor is that a player of such quality, who would surely have led the backline and been a major part of the spine of Charlton’s side this season had he remained an Addick, will no longer be seen at The Valley.
For he was a joy to watch throughout last season. A comment normally reserved for wingers and attacking players who can constantly excite, but a comment Gomez deserves despite largely operating as a centre-back.
It wasn’t so much excitement that he created, more amazement that someone who was just 17 could perform so faultlessly in a position where experience is normally a key asset. In the final months of the season, it was Gomez who looked like the seasoned professional, not Roger Johnson and Tal Ben Haim who he partnered.
Of course, a comparison with two error-prone and aging centre-backs will hardly excite Liverpool fans, but that Gomez’s reading of the game was as good if not better than his teammates’ shows the extent of his maturity.
So too does his composure. Never did he look overwhelmed by Championship forwards, rarely, if at all, was a mistake made, and almost always was he control. As calm on the ball, playing out from the back and looking to start moves forward, as he was off it, breaking up opposition attacks.
It means there is also genuine defensive ability. A match for anyone in the air, superb in the tackle, and incredibly strong for someone so young. Combine all his qualities, and his impact and ability is as good as any other academy graduate I’ve seen, which includes the likes of Carl Jenkinson, Jonjo Shelvey, and Diego Poyet.
Those assets didn’t come to him in time, they were all there from the moment he made his first team debut in August. Operating as a right-back in his first few outings, he was also allowed to show his pace, trickery, and reasonable attacking threat that meant he bombed forward with regularity.
In fact, it was arguably at right-back where Gomez gave his best performance. Michail Antonio had bamboozled Lawrie Wilson, a crowd favourite and a reasonable right-back, on countless occasions throughout the first half of Charlton’s clash with Nottingham Forest in March.
Consequently, Wilson was withdrawn, and Gomez, who had been playing at centre-back in the first 45, was given the task of dealing with the rampant Antonio during the second period. Antonio’s threat was nullified, Gomez was impassable, and the Addicks went onto maintain the lead they had given themselves just before half-time.
That versatility will only increase his likelihood of success at Anfield.
Or at least it will increase the likelihood of personal success coming at a pace. It is not a question of whether he is good enough for the Premier League and beyond, it is a question of when he’ll be good enough for the Premier League and beyond.
Is he ready right now? It’s a very tough call to make.
What must be remembered is that he has played just 24 games of first team football. Despite his brilliance and maturity, he is still very young, in both age and footballing terms, and still some way off his full potential.
But given that I saw every game he played for Charlton, and never saw him perform anything less than superbly, it’s hard to urge caution. For Liverpool will be signing a future England international, and a player who is already a class above the Championship.
His determined attitude that saw him playing U18 football at 14 and perform in the second tier at a level well beyond his years means you certainly wouldn’t put it past him to adapt very quickly to the increase in quality, if he isn’t there already.
As such, I cannot begrudge him his move or question his motives. I don’t believe he has simply been blinded by the status increase that comes with moving to a bigger club or the larger wage that he’ll earn. He has gone to Liverpool to better himself, to compete immediately for first team football, and to reach his full potential as quickly as possible.
At the absolute least, signing Gomez is a sound investment for Liverpool.
Big thanks to Charlton Fan Kyle Andrews for this excellent insight, follow Kyle here. We hope Charlton have a great next season.
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