on getting grilled by Van Dijk, staying humble & striving to be better

Liverpool defender says he looks up to fellow centre-back as someone who can improve his own game.

The 22-year-old made 16 appearances in the Premier League last year, forming a commendable partnership with van Dijk at the heart of the Reds defence.

A broken ankle sustained against last year saw him miss over four months the season, with admirably stepping up to replace him.

Gomez has found himself behind Matip in the pecking order once more this season, although that is down to the Cameroonian’s impressive performances since the turn of the year.

The former Charlton youngster’s humble nature and desire to learn has always been apparent and he insists he is still learning every day as he looks to break back into the starting eleven.

Joe Gomez
Image: Liverpool FC via Getty Images

When asked how much it helps to have someone like Van Dijk around, Gomez told Pro:Direct Soccer: “Massively. Everyone knows how good he is, it’s different. He’s unbelievable. He gives me a chance to learn every day.

“We genuinely have a good relationship so it’s not a vibe where it’s forced and I feel I’ve got to speak to him and ask him what I should have done there.

“He can grill me, the same way he can say ‘oh that was good’. It’s just a good relationship whereby I know I can improve, in the same way he can improve.

“That’s why he’s where he is; because he’s always striving to be better and I’ve got to do the same.

Joe Gomez
Image: Liverpool FC via Getty Images

“It’s nice to have that natural vibe where you can just bounce off each other and get the best out of ourselves.”

When asked about who he looked up to as a youngster, Gomez admits he watched clips of ’s Rio Ferdinand.

“Back in the day, it was Rio Ferdinand. He was a big one for me. I don’t know if it was because he was local – because he was from Peckham – but it gave me that connection,” he said.

“I looked up to him, just watching clips of him playing. Still to this day, [I take a lot from] all the world’s best defenders. Obviously, I’m lucky to have one local to me in Virgil.

“It’s important to always strive to be better, watch clips and improve.”

Gomez has had a meteoric rise in the last couple of years, getting his first senior call-up for England in 2017 and then going on to establish himself as an integral and trusted member of ’s squad.

Winning the Champions League last year was the biggest moment of his career so far, however, he insists he doesn’t dwell too much on what’s already happened.

“I know the history of the club and how much that meant,” he said.

Joe Gomez
Image: Liverpool FC via Getty Images

“But the year before, traveling with the team and getting that exposure of what it’s like, it prepared me a little bit. But that was a big one, it was nerve-wracking for sure.

“I’ve had a lot of ‘pinch myself’ moments but, at the same time, you can’t dwell on it. You go with the flow. If you get caught up in it all, then you just get overwhelmed.

“But in the off-season, when you come back home, come back to London, you sit down and deep the season, like ‘Wow! We won – that was mad!’

“You can’t stop, you have to keep chasing, that’s how you stay at that level. I know that, so I can’t dwell on it, so I keep striving.”

Gomez, who was born in Catford in south-east London, has always shown maturity above his years and he puts that down to his parents, who he says ‘kept him grounded’.

“When I was younger, I was blessed in the sense that my parents just kept me grounded. They didn’t let anything get to my head,” he said.

“[With off-the-field matters] they didn’t include me in those sorts of things, it was just ‘go and play football’.

“When the time came when I moved to Liverpool, obviously I was more involved then because I was becoming a man. But when I was younger and there was all the noise around me, they just kept it away from me, so I was lucky.

Joe Gomez
Image: Getty Images via Liverpool FC

“They set the foundation for me, bringing me up and bringing me into an environment where I couldn’t get ahead of myself. They didn’t treat me any different than my siblings.

“They taught me it’s a blessing to do what I do and play football every day. We can’t take it for granted because there’s a lot of luck along the way and in the end, we get our fortune, but we have to be grateful for being in this position.”

Gomez made his competitive debut for Liverpool in August 2015, starting at left-back in a 1-0 win against Stoke at the Britannia Stadium.

He picked up an assist for Philippe Coutinho’s winner, however, he says he was a bag of nerves ahead of the game.

“My debut for Liverpool. I remember being tense physically before the game,” he added.

“I hadn’t even played yet but I felt like I’d already played 90 minutes before the game had even started. That was nerve-wracking.

Joe Gomez
Image: Liverpool FC via Getty Images

“Since then, I’ve tried to grow and express myself – it’s important if you want to get the best out of yourself.”

Gomez replaced the injured Matip in the 4-3 win over Salzburg at the start of the month, however, Klopp opted for over him against Leicester three days later.

Whilst Matip is expected to be back in contention for the trip to Old Trafford after the international break, it will be intriguing to see who steps in should he be deemed to be unfit.

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