Liverpool defender Joe Gomez’s patella tendon injury could sideline him for up to 12 months dependent on the success of his rehabilitation, it has been warned. And the Reds ought to draw up a plan involving RB Leipzig’s Dayot Upamecano just in case.
The Liverpool Echo spoke to Dr Katie Walker-Small – the programme leader in Sport Rehabilitation and Massage Therapy at the University of Cumbria – about Gomez’s injury this week, and insists that after undergoing surgery there is a real chance the England international does not play again until the end of 2021.
Dr Walker-Small says that the 23-year-old defender’s spell on the sidelines could be anything from six months to a year.
“It’s certainly likely that it could well be a good six months in terms of recovery and return to play, although that in itself is on the more accelerative side of things,” she said.
“An injury like that could even take up to a year to return to full return-to-play fitness goals, especially given the level and standard of play he’s obviously at and the strength requirements in terms of the recovery.”
What’s clear is that there is no real definitive answer to when Gomez will return, and there won’t be for some time either. Those facilities at Liverpool’s new training ground will be put to good use.
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It will ultimately be a long while before the centre-back is back to the level he produced to help Liverpool win the Premier League title last term and that he showed prior to injury in Virgil van Dijk’s absence.
Gomez’s ruptured patella tendon and Van Dijk’s damaged knee ligaments look increasingly likely to rule them out for the rest of the Premier League season – although Liverpool are hesitant to do so – and possibly even the Euros in the summer.
But more than that, it is about how long it takes them once they are back on the pitch to get back into their rhythm after such a lengthy spell off it. That could be another few months.
With that in mind, Liverpool simply have to act but reports from The Athletic say that Jurgen Klopp and sporting director Michael Edwards are aligned in their thinking that they do not need a new defender in the January window.
Despite not replacing Dejan Lovren in the summer after he headed for Russia, and losing Gomez and Van Dijk to injury, the Reds are not overly concerned. Even despite the injury issues that have dogged Joel Matip over the last year.
Fabinho can play at the back while they will hope Matip can stay fit, with Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips seen as real options behind the pair.
Yet previous reports from the same outlet have said that Dayot Upamecano of RB Leipzig is already high in Liverpool’s thoughts as they begin to plan for the summer of 2021.
And the Premier League champions – knowing they might have to wait another 12 months to see both Gomez and Van Dijk back at their best – must draw up a plan of action.
Edwards and co. are renowned for being shrewd operators in the market – perhaps the very shrewdest – and it’s public knowledge that Upamecano has a release clause in his contract.
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The clause makes the highly-rated Frenchman available for below £40million next summer with a whole host of clubs, including Manchester United, alert to that fact. It is a bargain price for a player of such ability and experience still at a young age.
Liverpool are very much in need of more senior talent at centre-half and if Klopp and Edwards are to stick to their belief that they don’t want to recruit in January, they should at least be hard at work to ensure Upamecano sees Anfield as his only destination six months later.
Perhaps the Merseyside club should remember how they beat widespread competition for Leipzig’s Naby Keita, agreeing a deal in 2017 that would go through in 2018.
With Leipzig adamant they would not lose Keita for another 12 months, Liverpool agreed to pay his clause with a premium on top – eventually coming to just shy of £53m – even though it would delay his arrival.
And perhaps to edge out the competition for France international Upamecano, Liverpool should be deep in conversation with the Bundesliga club in January to agree a deal that would go through the following July.
Liverpool supporters will be begging for a central defender or two through the doors in the winter window but unless Klopp and Edwards are bluffing to the media, there is currently no intention for them to sign anyone midseason.
It is a sizeable risk of course but their combined thinking has worked out for the club well thus far.
Yet if Upamecano is their No 1 target, they must do their all to avoid losing out on the 22-year-old to United or any other club across Europe. Doing so after refusing to sign anyone in January would be a significant setback.
Another of the gems discovered by Salzburg before joining Leipzig, Upamecano has all the attributes to be a major asset for Liverpool – and indeed all of the big clubs on the continent.
Recruiting him for the 2021-22 campaign would help ease some pressure on the likes of Van Dijk and Gomez to immediately get back to 100 per cent upon their returns and also allow Fabinho to prefer to the holding midfield role that he plays best.
Even if it requires Liverpool to pay another premium fee, taking the eventual price tag over £40m, agreeing a deal in January to sign Upamecano in the summer would be a huge lift.
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