Joe Gomez had a unique path on his way to Euro 2024

  • Joe Gomez has endured no shortage of long-term injury setbacks during his Liverpool career
  • His ability to fight through adversity and become an integral part of the first team is a testament to his fighting spirit
  • He will be competing in his first international tournament at Euro 2024l
England Men Training Session
England Men Training Session / Michael Regan/GettyImages

As the opening of the UEFA European Championship was just around the corner, England's head coach Gareth Southgate was still dragging his feet in announcing the final squad last week.

Among the candidates, Joe Gomez and his Liverpool teammate Trent Alexander-Arnold were seen laughing and chatting at the England training camp at St. George's Park.

But once the training session begins, Gomez revoked his smile and focused intently on every move, his gaze always fixed on the grass beneath his feet and the path ahead, with his resolute eyes.

It wasn't until Southgate removed players like James Maddison and Harry Maguire from consideration that the final squad was announced.

Gomez's name was eventually confirmed in the list for the player from Catford, after enduring countless injuries and surgeries, Gomez's first major tournament for the national team is finally happening at the age of 27.

"Obviously it is a massive privilege and it comes with its pressures, playing for England. But also understanding you've got to be grateful to be here. You don't have to be here. It is a big privilege," Gomez told ESPN in the training camp.

From Grassroot to the Stadium

In his local community in Catford, South London, there's a football pitch enclosed by fences that Gomez calls "the cage."

For just £1, you could play on this turf all day. Gomez's earliest football memories began here when he was just four years old.

As he grew older, Gomez followed in his father's footsteps, playing for several teams in the Sunday League.

The grassroot memories are cherished by Gomez who often trained and played with his primary school classmates, enjoying the pure joy of the game. He said that the opportunity to play freely with friends was priceless and that the fun of grassroots football is irreplaceable.

At the age of ten, Gomez was scouted by Charlton Athletic. Through systematic training, he showed potential to become a professional player, representing Charlton's U18 team in youth leagues at the age of 13.

Although other clubs pursued him, the 17-year-old Gomez chose to stay, joining Charlton's first team and signing a contract, competing in the fiercely competitive Championship.

The Championship is a tough league, it’s relentless and for that season I just took so much on board in being able to adapt to men’s football and playing for points which mean something,” Gomez said.

In his first Championship season, he made 24 appearances. That same year, he received his first call-up to the England national team, helping the U17 team win the UEFA European Under-17 Championship in 2014.

His impressive performances caught the attention of some Premier League clubs, including Aston Villa and Liverpool.

After careful consideration, Gomez chose to accept the challenge of the Premier League, signing a five-year, £3.5 million contract with the Reds in 2015.

Injuries Stunned Gomez early in Liverpool career

It seemed like the dream start for a player on his way to the top. However, what awaited him was not the glory of reaching the summit but an endless series of injuries that almost ruined his career.

In 2015, at the age of 18, Gomez made his Premier League debut, appearing as a left-back in Liverpool's August match against Stoke City, and assisted Philippe Coutinho for the winning goal in the 86th minute.

However, in October, while playing for the England U21 team, he suffered an ACL injury, ruling him out for the season after just five Premier League appearances.

A year later, an Achilles injury struck again, preventing him from playing for the first team.

In 2017, at the age of 20, Gomez made his European debut and impressed in league matches against Manchester City and Arsenal.

But his good fortune didn't last. After 31 appearances that season, Gomez suffered another major injury, requiring knee surgery, causing him to miss the 2018 Champions League final, where Liverpool lost to Real Madrid.

When something’s happened whether it be a setback on the pitch or off the pitch, I try to just control my reaction. And the rest, it is what it is.” Gomez said.

In December of the 2018/19 season, Gomez fractured his leg and had to undergo surgery again. However, his resiliency brought him back to the pitch in April, just in time for the Champions League final against Tottenham, helping Liverpool to European glory and earning his first club career honor.

Joe Gomez
Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool - UEFA Champions League Final / Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/GettyImages

Injuries continued to plague him. In 2020, during a national team training session, Gomez suffered a patellar tendon rupture, requiring another major surgery and sidelining him for nearly 10 months.

When Liverpool reached the 2022 Champions League final, Gomez's unstable injury status left him on the bench, watching his team lose to Real Madrid again.

Beyond physical pain, Gomez faced mental challenges. While others were able to play freely on the pitch in his age, he instead endured lonely days on the bench and hospital beds.

Gomez repeatedly questioned whether the script he held was truly his football destiny.

Bounce Back from the Surgery Table

During his recovery, Gomez had time to reflect on his career. This reflection fostered a deep gratitude for football and kept him motivated through tough times.

With the support and encouragement of family and teammates, Gomez overcame the psychological trauma which came from those relentless injuries and actively engaged in his rehabilitation process.

Notably, Gomez never considered leaving Liverpool during the time he suffered. Born in South London, he had regarded Liverpool as his home.

He never came to my office and asked, ‘Can I go?’ No, never.” former Liverpool legendary manager Jürgen Klopp said. “It was always sorted before it could get to that point. We sorted a new contract, he wanted to sign.

In July 2022, Gomez signed a new five-year contract with the club. This decision, marked by signing his name on the dotted line, reflected his renewed confidence.

That season, he played his most matches, winning fans' hearts with his strong performances in key games.

In the 2023/24 season, he made 51 appearances, stepping up during Liverpool's injury crisis with Virgil van Dijk and helping secure a Champions League spot for the following season.

Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Ibrahima Konate
Chelsea v Liverpool - Carabao Cup Final / Marc Atkins/GettyImages

Liverpool's decision to offer him a new contract might have seemed a gamble on the uncertainty of his career, but it has paid off by now.

With the departures of defensive midfield stalwarts like Jordan Henderson and James Milner, Gomez has grown into a pillar of Liverpool's defense.

Now, with a heart full of gratitude for football, Gomez landed in Germany for the European Championship.

The star-studded England squad is seemingly the most talented in the tournament, But Southgate, who witnessed Gomez's growth during his U21 coaching experience, still retained a spot for him with the mission of bringing football home.

Surviving from his battles with injuries, Gomez faces his first major tournament with a stronger mindset.

(Football) definitely made me more appreciative, not that I wasn’t appreciative before, but more aware that it’s really a blessing to be able to play football for a job every day,” Gomez said. “But I’m a strong believer that everything happens for a reason and I’d like to think I’m better for it all and now I’m determined to enjoy it."